Leaders set the standards in their ministries, team leaders for their teams, parents for their children, volunteers for those they oversee, church leaders for their congregations. All of us who lead anything set the culture, ethos, attitudes and standards for others on our team. And most all of us do lead something or someone!
Don't underestimate the importance of this responsibility! Both the health and dishealth of families, teams and organizations can often (not always) be traced back to the example set by its leaders. Think about these areas that directly impact the health of a team.
Attitude toward leadership and authority. When leaders display cynicism toward those they are accountable to, their attitudes are picked up by those they lead who often develop similar attitudes. When leaders are respectful of those who lead them, others will be as well. Pastors, for instance who are critical of their boards breed the same attitude in their staff while those who are supportive and respectful communicate a healthy attitude. Our attitude toward authority is easily read by those we lead.
Words matter. Our choice of words, our use of them, whether they are critical or constructive, kind or harsh, respectful or disrespectful communicate a great deal to those we lead. Careless words reflect careless thinking and often careless relationships. Our words, according to Jesus, also reflect the state of our hearts. There is much in Scripture about gossip, slander, harsh and unkind words, anger and nonconstructive talk. The vocabulary, content and attitudes of our conversation and communication convey a standard for those we influence and lead.
Behavior communicates. I am often amazed at the behaviors of leaders in the ministry arena: uncontrolled anger, defensiveness, inability to disagree in an agreeable way, yelling, threats, lack of approachability. Often I see behaviors in ministry that would be grounds for discipline or termination in the business world. Certainly such behaviors are contrary to the attitude, teaching and modeling of Christ. One of the marks of leaders in the church is that they are "self controlled" - the ability to monitor and control our emotions and behaviors - especially those that are unhealthy and get us into trouble. Our behaviors set the tone for a healthy or unhealthy environment. Jesus is our model and example.
Relational health. All ministry is based on relationships and the health of the relationships of leaders again sets the tone for the kinds of relationships others will develop. Relational health includes the ability to be self defined and accept differing views, to stay connected with people we may disagree with, to seek the best for others and to genuinely care for them. Relational dishealth includes marginalizing those who disagree with us, being threatened by strong leaders, lack of openness to the feedback of others (defensiveness), or the inability to work collaboratively. Relational health on teams is almost always a reflection of the relational health of leaders. Jesus never used or abused people. He saw each one as people made in the image of God and treated them in that light.
Standards for behaviors, attitudes, words, and relationships are not set by policies. They are ultimately set by the example of leaders. No policy is more powerful than the example of leaders. No leaders can hold staff responsible for behaviors that they themselves do not adhere to. On those rare occasions when I have had to talk to a staff member about one of these issues, I will ask the question: "Have I ever treated you this way?" My point is twofold: first that you have not seen me behave this way toward you and I am your leader and second, I have the moral authority to keep the bar high if I do so for myself. It is my responsibility as a leader. And yours.