School starts. Our programs relaunch. We recruit and train (hopefully) a batch of volunteers. And we find ourselves, emotionally, in this weird place of hopeful dread.
We’re hopeful because fall is our spring. Fall is full of new life, new energy, new commitment, and new dreams for the school year to come. Dread because we’ve felt this way before. We’ve printed the agenda, met with parents, trained volunteers… and it’s not gone as expected.
We need this year to be different. We are tired. We are weary. We need some success to come easily. We need our strategy to work. Because we don’t know if we can take another year like last year. Which was like the year before. And the year before that.
In order for this year to be different we need to be a different type of leader.
I remember in my first semester of classes in youth ministry being told that as the youth pastor it was my job to be the leader. And being the leader meant that I was in charge and ultimately responsible for everything that happened. The reality is that people don’t trust this type of leadership anymore. It might feel familiar or comfortable to them, it might make you look good to the board, but this type of leadership is only going to deliver the results you’ve already seen.
To grow you’ll need to change.
To clarify, an autocratic leadership style work great if you’re an ultra dynamic leader. I’m not. And most of the people I know in ministry are not. I’ve found it to be a growth limiter.
I suck at telling people what to do and inspiring them to be all that they can be. But I’m pretty good at working as a leader in a flat, collaborative environment.
I think that the old style of leadership, especially in the church, feels like a collaborative style is weak leadership. We make the mistake of believing that giving up the headship or giving up the microphone is giving up what we’re paid to do.
Instead, I see it as forcing new leaders to emerge. It takes no leadership ability at all for me to say… “This is what we need to do, this is where we are going, and this is how it will work.” And if I do all of the teaching and speaking I’m communicating a style of leadership that Jesus didn’t foster with his own disciples.
Conversely, it takes all of my leadership skills to say, “We all need to work together, we need the best ideas to come out of the group, and we all need to share responsibility.” While the first feels better because I’m taking all of the responsibility, collaborating with a team allows the team to dream a whole lot bigger.
Nothing makes me tune out faster than being asked to come to a meeting to listen to the leader talk. (Or read from his notes which he dutifully sent to us all in advance.)
I am willing to be lead. But to be lead I need to be listened to. And I need to see that the leader doesn’t just listen to me, he listens to everyone. The primary task of the leader of a movement is to listen. Ask open ended questions. Sit in a circle on the same level. Provide an open-ended agenda. And make listening your primary task. Listening isn’t passive leadership, it’s where leadership begins.
It’s fall. Our spring. Are you ready to…. Stop. Collaborate. And Listen?