I asked a group of church leaders this week, if it was easy or hard to make decisions. They said "hard." What they were really saying without knowing it is that they do not have a leadership friendly environment. This not only makes it hard to lead but it robs good leaders of a lot of joy and it keeps leaders from being more effective. Their answer is an indication that their structures or ethos need to change.
This scenario is all too common in the local church where the ethos is more often than not a permission withholding structure rather than permission granting. Some like it that way as it prevents leaders (staff or lay) from making decisions. But the end result is that ministry opportunity is left on the table and the missional agenda is compromised.
What does a leadership friendly environment look like?
1. Leadership is valued as important to the organization. In many Christian organizations and ministries it is not! In fact, many churches don't want to support leaders on the mission field (they don't do real missions) even though they would never think to have staff with no leader or accountability in their own organization.
2. The structures and ethos are such that it is easy to make decisions. This allows the organization to move quickly when it must and empowered within appropriate boundaries at all times. Generally this means that leaders have appropriate authority to act with clear boundaries without getting additional permission. bureaucracy is kept to a minimum.
3. There is room to fail. Not all decisions get us to where we want to be and not all strategies work. The tendency when something does not work is to become even more cautious, pull our heads into the shell and get blamed for the "failure." Yet, if there is not room to fail, innovation never takes place. Leadership friendly organizations allow for failure which is why they see innovative thinking.
4. New leaders are regularly mentored and released. No organization is truly leadership friendly if it is not training the next generation of leaders. Leadership that does not train the next generation is selfish leadership while those that do display an unselfish leadership. The intentional development of new leaders makes it clear that leadership is a priority for the organization.
5. Leaders have both authority and responsibility. One of the most disempowering actions is to give someone responsibility without the requisite authority to accomplish it. This is not leadership at all but is rather an abdication of leadership. In addition, leaders who are regularly second guessed by their superiors after they have made decisions with due process are likewise disempowered and kept from leading well.
6. Good leadership is modeled and lived out at the top of the organization. Senior leaders always set the tone for what leadership will look like within the organization. Poor leadership at the top is always an indicator of a leadership unfriendly environment.
How leadership friendly is your environment and how leadership friendly do you allow others to be?
(Posted from Havana Cuba)