Catalyst or CEO?
What kind of leader are you?
One of the things that always comes up when I discuss authentic community with someone is, "what kind of leadership should we have?" I think the simple, straightforward answer to that is, "the kind God wants you to have." While that certainly is true, it comes off a bit sarcastic or cynical and is not very satisfying.
But the fact is that God does have a model for leadership that is ideally suited for your group or gathering. While, I personally feel that there are a lot shades of gray here, depending on the circumstance and situation, there are some basic decisions about leadership that need to be made early on. And my first question for those who aspire to lead and guide God's people is, "do you want to be a catalyst or a CEO?"
The Leader as CEO
The tendency to see church as a commercial enterprise has led to the desire for "superstar" leaders that are able to lead the church into the black. Again, that may be a bit cynical, but given the dire financial condition of many churches in the U.S., solvency has become a powerful motivator in selecting leaders. That fact, combined with the desire of many pastors for increased prestige and personal significance, naturally lead to a CEO-style leadership model.
What does that look like?
If your group leans towards the CEO model of leadership, here are a few things you can expect:
A focus on the person at the top. In this type of leadership structure, there is always a pyramid with one person at the top. That person may be incredibly gifted, or a powerful personality or a combination of both; but at the end of the day, they have the final word. The attraction to the 'single leader' CEO model is its simplicity, single-source accountability, perceived efficiency, and controlled outcomes. It always seems like it will be less messy and more efficient if one person exercises control. The downside is that the church will always be limited by that one person's capacity to produce results.
A clearly defined hierarchy. One thing is for sure, when you have a CEO at the top, everyone else knows where they fit on the org chart. As a consequence, place or position becomes increasingly important to those involved in the ministry. And often the emphasis in service becomes what's best for 'me' as I try and climb the ladder of personal status and prestige, rather than what is best for God's people.
An emphasis on conformity and control. The advantage of having someone at top and a clearly defined organization structure underneath, is that everyone in the group can know the rules. And the hierarchy is in place to enforce those rules and 'encourage' conformity. While outcomes can be controlled more effectively, they come at the expense of enthusiasm, creativity and spontaneity in the ministry.
Tradition will always trump Vision. With CEO-style leadership comes an emphasis on tradition and "the way we have always done it." This is often considered the safe road forward, but if there have been challenges that have gone unresolved in the past, tradition may be the roadblock preventing the release of God's blessing.
There will always be a struggle for biblical endorsement. If biblical principles and methods are important to us, it is hard to find a scriptural precedent for the CEO-style leadership model. Everywhere in scripture you see the model of multiplicity -- Moses had Joshua and Aaron, Paul had Barnabas and Silas, Jesus had the disciples, etc. It is also interesting to note that leadership and giftedness is always referred to in the plural - elders, deacons, teachers, evangelists, apostles. And interestingly enough, to my knowledge, there is never a mention in the New Testament of the "position" of pastor, or priest, or reverend - only the exercise of the gift and responsibility.
The Leader as Catalyst
So what if we looked at leadership in terms of being a catalyst? A catalyst has been defined as, "a person or event that quickly causes change or action." What if that was what leadership in authentic community was all about? What if we looked at leadership the way George Barna does in his book, The Power of Team Leadership:
Leadership is about calling, character and competencies -- a complete package of components that enables a leader to help people reach their goals and potential.
If we saw leadership as the catalyst for change in and for others, then this is what we might expect:
A genuine interest in others. How many times in the scriptures are we encourage not to focus on our own thing, but on the things of others? The catalytic leader is genuinely focused on the needs of others. Not as projects to be checked off a to-do list, but as real people, God's precious children, that have challenges, aspirations, desires and ultimately a destiny. Catalytic leaders show up and are present in every sense of the way and they have a compelling desire to help. That really is it for real leaders -- the opportunity to lead, guide, assist, encourage, under gird, exhort and admonish in such a way that God's people come to the fullness of what he intends for them.
Enthusiastic embracing of the concept of "many hands". Catalytic leaders are not trying to do it all themselves. They are not glory hogs or cripplingly insecure folks looking for affirmation from others. They understand that the purpose of the leader is "to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ." (Eph. 4:12) God has put us together so that we can all pitch in, help out and serve! There are tiny hands, weak hands, big hands, and strong hands. They are there to assist one another, prepare one another and bear their own share of the burden of the work. The catalytic leader enthusiastically embraces that reality and gives attention to identifying, cultivating, utilizing and celebrating the giftedness of others. The giftedness of others is never a threat to a catalytic leader, it is an opportunity!
A willingness to celebrate "messy". Contrary to the command-and-control CEO model that seeks to ensure outcomes, the catalytic leader is fine with ambiguity and messiness. They understand that the walk of faith is just that...a walk of faith, where the outcomes are not always predictable, people don't always conform and sometimes the greatest blessings come in the wrapping of complete surprise. To them, messy is ok, because it is the soil of inspiration, creativity, enthusiasm and energy. And from that soil will come forth the fruitfulness that God intends.
A serious commitment to the long haul. Catalytic leaders are not 'doing their time' while they look around for a better opportunity or another step up on the ladder of success. (Would it shock you to know that the average tenure of a pastor at a church is 5-7 years?) They are committed to the "here and now" of being involved with God's people as they grow and mature. And part of that is because they know that discipleship is a community thing. We need, especially as leaders, to be connected to others that can speak into our lives and help us move forward. Moving every 5 to 7 years ensures that just about the time people are beginning to get us figured out, we can move on to another anonymous situation where we don't have to face our own issues. The sad thing about this lack of commitment to the long haul, to staying with God has called me to serve, is that it really only hurts me! Those unresolved issues I am running away with are buried alive in me and sooner or later they will break forth. It's far better to stay together with those God has called us to fellowship with and experience healing and delivering grace together.
An understanding that vision is the only thing. UCLA football coach "Red" Sanders is reputed to have said, "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing." To the catalytic leader, vision isn't everything, it is the only thing! Vision drives their ability to inspire and motivate others. Vision gives them the courage to continue regardless of the trial or tribulation. Vision is what shapes and develops their gifts and abilities for others. Vision moves them to continuously seek the best that God has. Vision keeps them humble, lowly, vulnerable, open, authentic and dependent. Vision rejuvenates and empowers them in the midst of weakness and failure. Vision is the only thing!
As I said in the beginning, there are many shades of gray here, but for me I want more than anything to be a catalytic influence on others. I want to genuinely care for them, see them develop their gifts and talents, embrace the messy and the ambiguous, have their back (and front) for the long haul and above all, be a man of vision! Will you join me?
Teacher, speaker, entrepreneur and follower of Christ; with a passion to be a catalyst for authentic community.