How are you leading?

How do those you lead respond to you? Do they comply with whatever you are asking of them? Do you have to keep sending reminders, poking and prodding for action? Is there ever any pushback? Do any members of your team ever “tweak” your ideas? How do you receive those suggestions for improvement?

There are all sorts of leadership style surveys and questionnaires out there that are much more comprehensive than the questions I’ve posed. I’ve taken many of them and found that, when answered honestly, they helped me identify my strengths and my growing edges. But if you are of a mind right this minute to examine your leadership style, answer this: Honestly, are you seeking compliance or growth from those you lead?

Consider this from Seth Godin’s little book, Graceful:

“Because we are not seeking compliance, our goal is growth. And growth requires leadership, not authority.”

Authority breeds compliance. Compliance squelches creativity and innovation, which inhibits growth. As Godin points out, “…growth comes from change, insight and exploration, not obedience.” Effective leaders not only encourage input, they invite constructive feedback. When your team members are free to question your plan, to share suggestions for improvement, or to offer up their own plan which may be quite different from yours, growth happens. For them and for you.

So, here’s a simple suggestion to help you be a better leader: Stop talking and listen–with an open mind. Let go of the old notion that effective leaders are authoritative, that you have to offer up the idea and that it has to be realized hands holding seedlingaccording to your plan. Resist the urge to offer up your proposal–let someone else speak first. Invite feedback and discussion. Sit back and listen. Experience growth.


The power of growth

“Never forget, growth changes everything.”

That’s the statement that launches chapter four of Larry Osborne’s book, Sticky Teams. While he is referring to numerical growth and the challenges it presents, I think the same statement applies equally to spiritual growth.

I’m convinced that the act of serving plays a vital role in spiritual growth. I often say that we actually stunt our spiritual formation when we choose not to serve. Stepping out of our comfortable structures and patterns of living in order to meet the needs of another can be a powerful catalyst for spiritual growth. Case in point…

Six years ago I stepped way out of my comfort zone and went on a mission trip to China. It entailed a lot of “firsts:” my first mission trip, my first time to leave North America, my first transoceanic flight, the first time in a country where I couldn’t speak the language. As I got in the customs line at the Beijing airport, I realized that I was standing under the sign that read “foreigner.” I hadn’t made a mistake; I did belong in that line. It shocked me–another first of many that I would encounter during the next two weeks. But I saw God in faces and in places I would never have dreamed… and I was forever changed by the experience.

I returned home and spent the next six months struggling to shrink back into what had been the comfortable pattern of my existence. I could not do it. It seemed the world I live in had suddenly expanded exponentially, as had the God I love and serve. But, in all actuality, neither had grown a bit. It was me who had grown. And that growth changed everything.

Prior to my trip to China, I was quite content with ministry inside the walls of my church. After returning, I could no longer settle for that. Now I’m committed to helping ministry leaders develop systems and processes that encourage spiritual formation, equipping the saints of God to do the ministry of God outside the church walls as well as within. I’ve seen the incredible power of God when I stop clinging to the comfortably familiar.

Do you encounter team members who are resistant to change, afraid it will disrupt the security of their status quo? Do you notice those you lead stifling a yawn or two when you talk about ministry? Has their ministry gotten stale? (Has yours?)

It’s time to coax the yawners and resisters out of their cozy comfort zone! It’s time to lead them to experience a bigger world and a bigger God than the one to which they’ve grown too accustomed.

You don’t have to go to China. Just go to a homeless shelter, a federal housing project, a food pantry… not just for an hour or two one day, but for several weeks running.

Give them time and opportunity to see God in faces and places they would never dream.

And then, get ready…  Remember, growth changes everything!