For all the gifting, anointing, miracles, preaching ability or resources we may have, if we do not have an effective church leadership culture than we won’t maximise what – and who – God has given us to steward. Leadership is as much about systems as it is about skills. It is an attitude as well as decision making. So what cultures and mindsets should we look to cultivate that will make our leadership more effective?
Develop a leadership culture of feedback
Make it easy for people to give feedback on decisions, event and programs. Resist pride and make yourself approachable by listening, fighting defensiveness, showing humility, and reflecting on what is said after the moment. Look for the gold in critique, even if it is badly said or shared by someone you wouldn’t choose as a counsellor!
Assessments and surveys such as my Church Health Assessment can reveal insights from feedback gathered amongst your church that will enable you to make significant changes.
Develop a leadership culture of delegation
Develop a leadership culture of empowerment
Empowering people isn’t without risk – you trust people to do well, bear with them when they do things differently or unsuccessfully, and commit to the extra time it takes for people to grow into tasks even though it might be quicker for you to keep doing it. The reality is that empowerment is the key to successfully developing mature leaders.
Giving people authority is risky, but if we are to genuinely empower people then we must fight the temptation to criticise or even penalise if bad decisions are made. Empowerment depends on clarifying three key aspects – authority, responsibility and accountability. It involves asking questions to determine ability and competency, and covering any training needs that you identify from those questions.
Develop a leadership culture of challenge
Confrontation and challenge are necessary for growth. To get the best out of people, sometimes they will need to be provoked or corrected. If we don’t, we aren’t honouring people and are failing to disciple them or serve them so they can be who God has created them to be. Effective church leadership is hugely dependent on how well we develop others around us.
Most leaders I know don’t enjoy confrontation. In fact, the most damaged and wounded leaders I’ve come across seem to be those who relish and seek it out! Conflict resolution skills are essential, especially those that produce ‘win/win’ outcomes. Listening skills and a soft heart ensure misunderstanding and pain are minimized.
During a confrontation, rather than starting sentences with ‘you’ – that can lead to defensiveness and sounds accusatory. Instead, try beginning phrases with ‘I’ – describe your feelings and concerns. It shows transparency, vulnerability and reveals where you are at rather than putting the other party in a position where they make assumptions.
Questions are powerful, and oftentimes a leaders best friend. Open-ended questions that seek out information and understanding and let the other party speak are essential to a successful resolution.
Finally, never begin conflict resolution when you need to HALT – meaning, you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired!
Develop a leadership culture of connection
As leaders, it is essential we live in community and are not withdrawn from the people we’re called to lead. We need champions who encourage us, counsellors who advise us, and challengers who get in our face!
Relationships and connections that are genuine are the lifeblood in church life, especially to leaders. It protects us from being ‘role-centric’ or having our identity come from what we do. Otherwise, we’ll live by our success and die by our failures. That will just perpetuate a performance culture which will mean we project that thinking onto those we lead, and our expectations of them.
As well as keeping connected to people, we must ensure we never neglect our connection with God. We are sons of God first, before any kind of leadership calling.
Develop a leadership culture of learning
Be a continual learner. Read good books, listen to good podcasts, and attend good conferences. Ask questions of those fruitful leaders around you and apply what you learn.
Effective church leadership is as much about creating culture as it is about developing systems to maintain these mindsets. Creating these cultures in yourself, and amongst the other senior leaders in your organisation, will see the leadership effectiveness in your church skyrocket!