Creating a Leadership Culture

Most young pastors and church planters do not fully appreciate the importance of creating a leadership culture within the local church.  Nevertheless a church’s vitality is directly tied to its leadership.  Creating a leadership culture includes providing an environment where leaders can lead and having pathways of natural leadership development.  Good leaders do not happen.  They are trained and then given freedom to lead within in their gifts and abilities.  

In Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton’s New York Times Bestseller book entitled All In: How the Best Managers Create a culture of Belief and Drive Big Results, they present what they call the E+E+E to describe a successful business culture.  Though this book was written primarily for a business context, it offers helpful insight in how to create a healthy leadership culture in a church.  The three E’s the authors describe are:

“Engaged: Attachment to the company and willingness to give extra effort.”  The leaders understand how their work benefits the church and have a clear understanding of what they are responsible and accountable for.  They can see the value of their contributions to the church’s larger mission.
“Enabled:  A work environment that supports productivity and performance.”  The pastor supports the leaders with the right tools, and training.   The pastor invests significant time into coaching his leaders so they do not feel isolated in their work.
“Energized. Individual physical, social and emotional well-being at work.”  The leaders have feelings of well-being and high levels of energy because the pastor helps them see fruit of their work and helps them balance ministry, home life, and recognizing their individual contributions.  (pp. 50, 51, 62)

Unfortunately, most pastors are not actively involved in their leader’s lives resulting in churches full of disengaged, confused and tired leaders!  Most pastors are not engaged in their leader’s lives because they have not developed pathways of relational leadership development.  Many pastors mistake the theological training that is commonly done for elders and deacons as they only leadership training necessary.  Though this is an important step in the officer training process, it in itself is not leadership training.

Early in my ministry a seasoned leader advised me to invest heavily in the young men in my ministry, and since that time I have dedicated a substantial amount of time and energy on spending time with men from one-on-one, to groups of three to twelve.  My primary goal was not to train them through any specific curriculum, but to build relationships where I could better understand where they were spiritually and then root them deep in the Gospel. 

These groups of men became the “farming system” for the leaders in my church as well many other churches. As I grew to know their strengths, weaknesses and spiritual struggles, I was able to give them the tools they needed to grow and to be their encourager or coach along the way.  I was also able to identify early in the process not only where they could lead, but if they should lead.

Author’s Gostick and Elton point out the 10/20/70 learning principle that says:
  •  10 percent of all learning happens during formal training, or event.
  •  20 percent of all learning happens from working directly with your leader.
  • 70 percent of learning occurs during real-life on-the-job experiences or individual cultural encounters (p. 215-16).
In order to build a leadership culture in a church, you must be a leader who operates in the 70 percent “real-life” category.  And in order to encourage and maintain a leadership culture you must live in the 70 percent and make sure an E+E+E leadership culture exists in your church. In a church setting it should look something like this:

Engaged: Your leaders feel an attachment and ownership to the church and are eager and willing to give extra effort.  They understand how their ministry fits the overall mission and vision of the church.  They “get” how their ministry is necessary both in the church and for the Kingdom.
Enabled:  Your leaders feel the freedom to do their task and are not micromanaged.  They know you trust them.  You have provided an environment that supports productivity and performance. You are supporting them both personally and with the right tools, and training.   You are coaching these leaders so they do not feel isolated in their work.
Energized: Despite of what is going on in the life of the church your leaders do not feel hopeless, but are energized. The leaders have deep understanding of the Gospel and how it applies personally as well as to their ministry.  They are also energized because you did not let them burn out by overextending themselves and not keeping their commitments in balance.

I may have mentioned this in an earlier blog, nevertheless though it may sound ridiculous, you cannot have a healthy team unless the team not only has a game plan, but the know what game they are supposed to be playing. 
  • Teams operate at their best when there is a clear vision that each member of the team fully embraces.
  • Teams reach their full potential when each team member is in a position that fits them and they know what they are supposed to do and are empowered to do it.
  • Teams have longevity, when they enjoy each other as well as the game – They have fun! Remember the 3 P’s – PRAY together, PLAY together, PLAN together.

In summary, a healthy leadership culture is one where leaders are constantly being identified, trained, engaged, enabled and energized.  A leadership culture does not simply happen.  It must be exemplified and maintained by the pastor. 

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