It is not unusual for me to hear about gag orders by senior leaders or their Executive pastors, effectively telling elders that they cannot talk to church staff and staff that they cannot talk to elders. Usually it is in the name of policy governance which states that the elders have one employee, and that is the senior leader who can manage his staff as he pleases. This is both a misreading of policy governance, an unwise thing to do and often reflects the personal insecurity of the leader.
First lets clear up the policy governance issue. Under this board management tool, what is clear is that elders cannot tell staff what to do. That is the prerogative of the senior leader. They cannot manage staff. And it is also true that staff should not go around their leader to the elders as an end run to get what they want.
What it does not say is that elders and staff should not talk. In fact I think it foolish for a leadership board to not know the temperature of the staff. Consider this: if staff cannot talk to the board in any fashion, what do they do when they have problems that are not getting solved by their leader?
My experience is that such gag orders are usually a sign of insecurity on the part of leaders more than anything else. This was part of the massive dysfunction Mark Driscoll created at Mars Hill Church where there were major dysfunctions on staff but staff were not permitted to talk to others about it. In a large church I did crisis management in a long string of staff had been mistreated. The board suspected but had not inquired because they were not supposed to talk to staff.
Healthy organizations are not afraid of conversation around whatever issues they face. Healthy leaders are not afraid of alternate opinions or push-back. We have intentionally created an open culture in ReachGlobal where all issues can be put on the table with the exception of hidden agendas or robust dialogue. We welcome the conversation even if it challenges our current thinking.
I am always deeply wary of what is actually going on when gag orders appear rather than the invitation to open dialogue.
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