Church Leadership

5 Hallmarks of New Leadership

Yoda spins his leadership mantras like a DJThe balance of power has shifted. Whether you recognize it or not there is a big gap between perceived leadership and actual leadership.

  • Old (perceived) leadership: These are the people with the titles, position, and authority of traditional leadership. These people are called “leaders” by vocation. In actuality, they have much power of big things but little power over your moment-by-moment interactions.
  • New (actual) leadership: These are people you are shaping your mind/heart/life around. They influence your thought life, they help shape your aspirations, they inspire you to be the you you really want to be.

These things have shifted in your mind. Heck, maybe you are frustrated because your own leadership has changed and you can’t figure out quite why?

Some examples… Your boss isn’t likely the boss you have on your job description. Your pastor isn’t likely the pastor you sit under. Your teacher might just be a fallback teacher compared to your guru.

It’s almost cute that traditional, old-style leaders, still think they have great influence with the people technically under their leadership.

That’s why one is perceived and the other actual.

In years past things like an organizational chart really mattered. Even if you didn’t have one, you respected a hierarchy that now baffles you with it’s out-of-datedness. If people were truly honest and asked themselves, “Who is actually leading and influencing me today”  their life org chart now looks more like a bowl of spaghetti than a pyramid.

So, these new leaders, how are they doing it? Because it’s not just an age thing. Plenty of old leaders are retaining leadership in this new age.

5 Hallmarks of New Leadership

  1. New leaders collaborate instinctively Old leadership looked at collaboration as a sign of weakness, something they did when they needed help. New leaders assume they need help and know that working together leads to a better end results. New leaders know that when great minds work together the result is always something awesome. Old leaders worry too much about protecting their territory/brand/knowledge base/customer base.
  2. New leaders begat thinkers Old leadership is intimidated by people who are smarter than them or better leaders than them. They build structures where they are the chief and people who work for them are followers. New leaders want the very best ideas and aren’t intimidated that the best idea came from an intern, new hire, or the janitor. They love it and celebrate when their employees leave to start something new. (Anathema to an old leader)
  3. New leaders lead from the the front lines, not the board room Old leaders love meetings, hold secrets from subordinates, and rarely do the work their organization is best known for. But new leaders are front liners, those who get dirty, those who avoid meetings so they can hang with the engineers, they are hands on and know their presence inspires those working alongside them. Old leaders spend a lot of time hiding while new leaders spend a lot of time on site, working their butts off.
  4. New leaders hate vacuums Decisions don’t come down from on high from today’s best leaders. They are group efforts, made in the best interest of all interested parties, because these leaders know they are in the trust business more than they are in business. Old leaders have a tendency to only look outside of their organizations for validation of their decisions as most of their decisions are made in a vacuum of the “top leaders.” New leaders look outside of their organizations all the time, they want to do what makes sense even if it defies logic.
  5. New leaders create environments Old leaders create structures, efficiencies, set priorities, and worry a lot about tasks & todo lists. New leaders care much more about the ecosystem of their environment, bring on the best possible people, and cultivate a place where the best stuff is celebrated, toxic people are fired, and space is creative.



Bottlenecks, rubberneckers, and other people who slow you down

Every commuter in Chicago is familiar with the Hillside Strangler. Prior to the early 2000s, this section of interstate where two major 6-lanes of highway merged onto a 3-lane onramp to a 5-lane city-bound highway doubled the commute of everyone. 11 lanes of traffic don’t merge into 5 lanes very well.

The Hillside Strangler was a bottleneck. Everyone had to go through the bottle neck to get work done. Truckers. Commuters. Tourists. School busses. All of the pressure of the cities west side was placed on that 3-lane onramp each morning.

People left an hour earlier just to sit and listen to the radio and sip coffee while they waited their turn.

Conversely, on the ride home everyone hated rubberneckers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in traffic for up to an additional hour just so people in front of me could slow down and watch AAA change a tire or watch two people who got into a fender-bender fill out paperwork.

Both are aggravating and all-too-common for commuters.

And both are aggravating and all-too-common in organizations.

Organizationally, bottlenecks are people, teams, or systems that slow things down at the point of decision making. While a legitimate part of the bureaucratic process they are frustrating to deal with for those who like to (or need to) take action quickly. For people on the front lines bottlenecks always take too long and  the mantra “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission” takes over. Which is why those who are the bottlenecks describe their job as herding cats.

Likewise, within every organization there are rubberneckers or gawkers. These are people who like to talk about and look at things more than they like to do them. Sure, they claim it’s all human nature to want to talk about what is going on. But in the meantime they slow everything down.

Every organization I’ve ever worked in has these two problems which slow everything down. Bottlenecks of decision or execution and rubberneckers who slow down to talk. (Or study, or hire a consultant, or pray, or wait for the board to meet, etc.) In many ways these are just the ebbs and flows of work life as you try to balance going about your everyday balance while trying to push forward to grow.

Some organizations solve this by dispersing their teams

Plenty of companies, some Fortune 500, are dispersing their staffs and closing offices to remove rubbernecking while dealing with the obvious issues of bottlenecks, internally. Working remotely, while once laughed at, has become en vogue as a way to keep people working and happy by eliminating the commute and office life altogether.

Would this work in the church? Absolutely. Most church staff members I know look at their offices as more a liability towards reaching their community than an asset. No one went into ministry to be a desk jockey… but that’s most of what we do.

Why aren’t we doing it? Perceptions and trust.