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Ten Leadership Styles That Make A Difference In Church

Ten Leadership Styles That Make A Difference In Church April 1, 2021
leadership styles in church

We can all think about leadership styles in the church we’ve experienced, for better or for worse. But a key question we need to consider is ‘what is my leadership style?’ We might know. Or might think we know. Then again, we might believe we lead in a certain manner but the people we lead might have very different opinions! Overall, I think it’s a fascinating topic, and as I reflected on it, I began thinking about the people that I’ve been led by, or led alongside, throughout my life. Each leader was unique, gifted, and had clear strengths and weaknesses. But they all led differently, for better or for worse.

Identifying The Ten Leadership Styles in Church

As I followed this thought experiment, I identified ten leadership styles. They are just as applicable in the church as they are outside of it, and they are:

church leadership styles

Further research led me to realise that each of these ten styles is made up of five drivers – strengths, motivations, and behaviour – that define, shape, and characterise it. Each driver is a strength when healthily employed, but if unhealthily used – due to stress, insecurity, or overuse – can become destructive and damaging to our leadership. I call these overextended drivers dysfunctions. We think we are leading well, but our strength to serve others has become a strength that hurts others.

Following this thinking, we have:

  • Ten leadership styles
  • Each leadership style is formed by five drivers, making fifty total strengths across the board.
  • Each of the fifty drivers can be used unhealthily and become a leadership dysfunction

Let’s look more closely at each of the ten leadership styles that can be used in church:

Do You See The World As A Visionary or Pragmatist?

I’ve worked with real visionaries who could and would dream big about the future. Full of passion, ideas, enthusiasm and energy, they reached for the stars. Inspirational, sure, but not necessarily detail-minded or mindful of the practicalities of how to do it! Conversely, I served alongside leaders much more pragmatic and practical, mindful of details and much more grounded and down to earth. Yet whilst the pragmatists didn’t often miss a trick, and crossed every ‘T’ and dotted every ‘I’, they could be over-cautious and lost in the details.

visionary church leadership

Both leadership styles have clear drivers that shape how they function, but each driver can also turn from strength to weakness if it becomes overemphasised.

church leadership styles

Do You Prioritise Relationship or Outcome?

Some leaders in seasons of my life were incredibly logical and clear-thinking. Strategically minded and having clarity of thought and mind, they kept focused on the outcome and task they wanted and were unwavering in their purpose. But people were thrown under the bus with them, and although they did not mean it, they didn’t even realise how insensitive they could be with their team. Conversely, we all know leaders who are sensitive, relationship-orientated and people-focused. Values determine their actions, as opposed to rationale, and everyone feels cared for and included with them. Yet making tough decisions or getting clarity from them isn’t always the easiest.

relational church leadership

Both leadership styles have clear drivers that shape how they function, but each driver can also turn from strength to weakness if it becomes overemphasised.

church leadership styles

Do You Navigate The World Methodically or Flexibly?

I’ve worked with leaders who are methodical, organised, and structured. They worked with routine and focus, and there is an order to how they do things. Yet they can be rigid and wed to their process of doing things, seeing it as the only way. Contrast that with those leaders who are flexible and spontaneous, adapting and changing their approach fluidly as different challenges present themselves. Whilst not being boxed in, there can be a sense of chaos or lack of focus that makes them a challenge to work with.

flexible church leadership

Both leadership styles have clear drivers that shape how they function, but each driver can also turn from strength to weakness if it becomes overemphasised.

church leadership styles

Do You Respond To Things With Confidence or Sensitivity?

I’ve served leaders who carried strong feelings and sensitivity – passionate, whole-hearted and committed. They brought energy and dynamism to their work. But sometimes, in their whole-heartedness, emotion clouded their judgement or insecurities or instabilities impacted what they did – and who they worked alongside. Contrasted with those are leaders who had an approach much more consistent, considered and confident. Level-headed and clear-minded, they bought stability and steadiness to proceedings – yet could be arrogant, aloof or unyielding.

confident church leadership

Both leadership styles have clear drivers that shape how they function, but each driver can also turn from strength to weakness if it becomes overemphasised.

church leadership style

Are You Energised In Life By Action or Introspection?

Lastly, I noticed that some leaders tended to act first and think along the way. Their default was action-orientated. Others thought through what to do and acted after due consideration was beginning. Neither approach is better or worse. Neither the activists nor and the introspectives were any more successful than the other. Some decisions needed action, others needed thinking through. Activists tended to make a quick impact but also make a mess because they acted like a bull in a china shop. Introspectives could pause, reflect and identify a wise way forward, yet also be passive or overthink options. 

church leadership style

Both leadership styles have clear drivers that shape how they function, but each driver can also turn from strength to weakness if it becomes overemphasised.

church leadership style

You Have A Leadership Leaning, Not A Church Leadership Style

No doubt as you’ve read, you’ve identified with more than one leadership style. That’s how it should be because none of us sits exclusively in one of the ten styles. You might have a dominant or primary visionary leadership style, for example. But equally, you’ll have other styles that are secondary or minor influences on your overall approach – relationship, for example. It’s there, but less so when compared to another. This means that rather than just having one leadership style, we lead in the church through a combination of the ten leadership styles I’ve identified. We all have a unique mix of these leadership styles, with varying strengths, and I call this blend of ten styles our leadership leaning. If we discover our propensity and ‘leaning’ in different leadership styles, we can form a picture of our strengths and weaknesses. So I developed a tool that will help leaders discover:

  • Their unique blend of these ten leadership styles
  • Strengths they possess will contribute to their leadership mix
  • Potential dysfunctions impacting their ministry
  • Practical applications and insights for their style
leadership assessment

Romans 12:8 tells us that those with the gift of leadership should lead with zeal. The Greek word here carries a sense of urgency or wholeheartedness. Biblically, we are called to lead in all our fullness! Knowing our natural leadership leaning is the first step in this. The second step is then developing and cultivating our gifting, skill, and knowledge. This where our drivers come in. Understanding what we do well – our competencies, abilities, and strengths – will help us lead more effectively. Leadership Leanings allows you to review each of the fifty drivers that make up the church leadership styles to highlight what you are specifically good at – and equally, what you are not so good at!

leadership strengths

These ten leadership styles in church, which are paired and contrasted, give us five scales. We all sit on each scale in some capacity. Five scales with two styles each give thirty-two possible outcomes from the various combinations of the ten leadership styles. Each Leadership Leaning has a novel approach to leadership, with traits, practices, strengths and wirings. They are all unique, different, and distinct in their own way. Leadership Leanings will show you which of the outcomes fits your leadership style, and tell you what that means for you.

church leadership styles

Knowing Your Leadership Leaning

Once you know your Leadership Leaning, there are a number of insights available to you. For example, you will have a greater insight into the following:

  • Goals and motivations
  • Core needs
  • Expectation of others
  • Interpersonal approach
  • Suitable roles
  • Leadership practice
  • Style of conflict
  • Communication style
  • Leadership Achilles Heel
  • Responding to pressure
  • Anxieties and Triggers
  • Areas of development

As an example, here is a chart that shows how what kind of role and work on a team each Leadership Leaning is most naturally suited for. If you knew this information about you, what difference would that make in your current role?:

best leadership fit

Leadership Leanings is a tool that gives extraordinary and deep insight in a clear and visual way. You can’t simply categorise a leader in one of ten available boxes to identify their leadership style and think the job is done. No, we all draw facets from other leadership styles in church. We’ll be strong in some drivers and weaker in others. Leadership Leanings is unique because it will tell you:

  • What does your unique mixture of styles look like? What does it mean to be a relational activist, for example, or a visionary introspective? How would being a methodical thinker or a spontaneous thinker affect your day to day?
  • What about intensity? You may know you are more pragmatic than visionary, but how is leadership different for a high pragmatist, a moderate pragmatist, and a low pragmatist, for example?
  • Would knowing this information about people in your team make your leadership and management of them easier and clearer?

Leadership Leanings answers each of these questions and works for individuals and for teams.

leadership leanings

Leadership Leanings is a unique tool that brings invaluable clarity and insight through clear, visual methods. But don’t take my word for it – here are a couple of testimonials from people who have taken the Leadership Leanings assessment themselves, or with the rest of their team.

“I’ve gained a higher value for the leadership strengths that I do have”

Mark Spybey

“Leadership Leanings has helped me to appreciate a wider perspective on what leadership is and looks like. I’ve gained a better understanding of why I like thinking about certain things, but don’t enjoy others. I’ve gained a higher value for the leadership strengths that I DO have, and this has re-inspired me to be active in these strengths. Ultimately, I have a better understanding of what I’m looking for in a leadership team that I’m part of.”

Mark Spybey

“Provided wisdom, safety and structure”

“Anthony guided us through a process and provided wisdom, safety, and structure, helping to facilitate and guide us towards a healthy conclusion. We clearly valued his thought-out and systematic approach. His Leadership Leanings assessment brought real insight to me and my team about our dynamics, gaps, functions, motivations, and interactions.”

Haydon & Alison Murr
The Well Community Church, London, UK

To find out more about discovering the Leadership Leaning for you or your team, click here to contact me.

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