Benchmarks of Excellence in Leadership

Servant Leadership

A Pastor’s Guide to Leading the Learning Church

By Don Eastman updated 2008, 2010, 2015

Note: This is an update of the Benchmarks of Excellence for Transformational Leadership written originally in 1999 by Rev. Elder Don Eastman and Rev. Dr. Justin Tanis, then the Director of Clergy Development for Metropolitan Community Churches.

“As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence: The next best, the people honor and praise; the next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate. When the best leader’s work is done, the people say, ‘we did it ourselves.’ ”

                                                             Lao-Tzu, Chinese philosopher

“Each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  The gifts given were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ….”

                                                              Ephesians 4:7, 11-12 

A new kind of leadership is needed for healthy churches in the new millennium. The secular definitions of charisma and bureaucratic norms of leadership are not working in these rapidly changing times. Leadership for churches today is not about creating a new breed of super-pastors. It is not about finding rare individuals in the church who are naturally talented with leadership abilities. It is about developing, equipping and empowering effective leaders throughout the church.

Rather than dependence on an elite class of caregivers called “clergy” plus a small core of “faithful” members to shoulder the weight of a church’s ministry, the goal of healthy churches is to mobilize all of their congregants into meaningful ministry.  Leadership skills and styles of twenty-first century churches must equip and empower all people in the body of Christ to reach their God-given potential to grow and to give. In healthy churches of the twenty-first century paths to participation are easy to find, barriers to participation are removed.

Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant.” Servant leadership is rooted in concern for the growth, development and advancement of those being led.  Servant leadership has a deep sense of accountability to followers and welcomes feedback on performance.  Servant leadership is committed to making life and work easier for those being led. Servant leaders are happily willing to give credit to the people with whom they work rather than take credit for themselves.

Servant leadership is also both shared and situational. The real strength of leadership is not simply in one individual; it is in the group. John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” At various times, various individuals in a group can exercise leadership by the power of their influence. Thus, an individual who is a follower in one situation may become a leader in another.

Servant leadership is transformational through the strength of purpose and values. Rather than being preoccupied with power, servant leaders focus on instilling purpose and shaping values. In the words of political scientist James MacGregor Burns, “Transforming leadership is dynamic leadership in the sense that the leaders throw themselves into a relationship with followers who will feel ‘elevated’ by it and often become more active themselves, thereby creating new cadres of leaders.”

Anderson and Jones in the Management of Ministry identify three essential tasks of church leadership, which are useful categories for framing the basic functions of both lay and clergy leaders.  First, church leaders must provide authentic spiritual direction. Church leaders shape the values of a congregation.  Church leadership needs to function from a solid foundation of biblical and theological competence and the strength of personal integrity and credible ethics. Secondly, a church needs effective associational leadership. As a voluntary association, a church has only the people who choose to be there. People are more likely to choose a church where leaders articulate a compelling vision and are effectively leading change needed to realize the vision. Third, church leaders must assure efficient organizational management.  Effective management requires plans, processes and methods necessary to achieve the vision with integrity to values.

What is a learning church? It is a church whose people are dedicated to constant learning and continuous improvement. It is a church whose people can readily state its purpose and mission. It is a church whose people share a clear understanding of core values and guiding principles. It is a church with a powerful and compelling shared vision for an exciting future!

A learning church attempts to see current reality more clearly. Its leaders actively challenge their deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations and pictures or images of the world and how they take action. They continuously work at improving their mental models, which influence how they think, act and interact. Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization says, “the hallmark of the learning organization is not lovely visions floating in space, but a relentless willingness to examine ‘what is’ in light of our vision.”

Finally, a learning church learns through teams, which are aligned with its purpose, values and vision. Teams are people who need one another to act. Katzenbach and Smith in The Wisdom of Teams define a team as “a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.” Teams are the basic structure for church ministries.  Ministry teams are formed by team leaders on the basis of team purpose and mission.  Team members are selected on the basis of gifts, skills and passion needed to fulfill the team’s purpose and mission. Team accomplishments can set a tone and establish a standard for learning together throughout the church.

Guiding Principles

  1. Servant leadership is rooted in the teaching and example of Jesus Christ. It is a way of being rather than a position of status. Its hallmarks are integrity, trust, vision, passion, compassion, empathy, daring, and humility.
  2. Servant leadership is shared. The real strength of leadership is not simply in one individual; it is in the group.  The organization is also the servant.
  3. Leadership and followership are integral. We are all followers.  Excellence of skills in both leadership and followership are equally important. Followers often exercise leadership. An individual who is a follower in one circumstance may exercise influence to become a leader in another.
  4. The concept of servant leadership does not imply that rules, hierarchy, or structure should be abolished. What changes are the roles of servant leaders; they still lead but in a different way.
  5. Servant leadership is a gift of grace, charisma, given by God to numerous individuals in the church and realized more fully as each of whom develop leadership wisdom and skills.
  6. Servant leadership requires lifelong discipleship; an unending journey of personal discovery and development that results in constant learning and continuous improvement.

Benchmarks of Excellence

 

About Benchmarks

Benchmarking is a common method used globally by businesses to increase the quality of their products or services.  In a given area or function, a business looks to other businesses that have the same area or function, and then seeks out the company that has the best practices to produce the highest quality.  That establishes the “benchmark” for the company seeking to improve.

With churches we have not sought any one particular church but have attempted to build a composite picture of the highest quality for each function or area.

The purpose of these Benchmarks of Excellence is continuous learning and constant improvement. Accordingly, these documents will be ever evolving as we discover and learn how to improve the quality of our ministries.  The purpose is to learn what works well in our churches and to seek for ways in which we can improve.

Best Practices for Servant Leadership

Best Practice One:  Self Awareness and Development

To be a leader in a healthy, growing church, where people are finding wholeness and deeper levels of spirituality, the leader must also know personally and intimately what it means to be healed and to grow in relationship with God, self and others.  The intangible qualities of leadership– character, integrity, identity– are far more critical to authentic leadership than any skill that a leader may have.  Servant leaders are engaged in transformation both internally and externally.  Self-development is a dynamic, on‑going, life long process of discovery.

Self Awareness and Development includes

  • Spiritual centeredness; commitment and discipline to spiritual formation/direction/ growth/vitality
  • Healthy self-identity, self-esteem, self-care
  • A personal sense of purpose related to servanthood/trusteeship
  • Development of a personal vision
  • Growth and development of personal character: self-discipline, responsibility, integrity, balance
  • Developing systems/processes for personal and professional accountability
  • Integrity in relationships

Best Practice Two:  Foundational Competencies

A basic mastery of the skills of ministry is critical to a leader’s effectiveness.  Being comfortable and effective in the basic skills allows the leader to focus then on content as well as form, on meaning as well as delivery.  It is a matter of knowing what to do and, beyond that, knowing the reasons behind the actions.  The tools of our trade are methods that communicate our beliefs and values to the world, and, at their best, are conduits for God’s communication with those we serve.  Because of this, we must hone them to the greatest degree possible so that we might live up to this challenge.

Foundational Competencies include:

  • Biblical/theological knowledge and skills
  • Liturgical/worship/preaching knowledge and skills
  • Pastoral care knowledge and skills
  • Organizational development/management knowledge and skills
  • Interpersonal/communication knowledge and skills
  • Conflict management knowledge and skills

Best Practice Three:  Learning Competencies

“Leadership is never really learned; it is ongoing learning,” says organizational development specialist Peter Vaill in Spirited Leading and Learning. He adds, “To be immersed in a learning process is to be continually confronted with newness— new problems, ideas, techniques, concepts; new gestalts; new possibilities and new limits; new awareness and understandings of oneself.  Learning also means reinterpreting things already understood and letting go of former understandings and techniques, even if at the level of brain physiology one never literally ‘unlearns.’ To be immersed in newness is to feel like a beginner.”

Learning Competencies include:

  • Personal passion for and commitment to growth
  • Creating a learning environment
  • Creating processes for feedback
  • Team reflection/learning skills

Best Practice Four: Building Shared Vision

“Vision refers to a picture of the future with some implicit or explicit commentary on why people should try to create that future,” says Harvard professor of leadership John Kotter in Leading Change. In the words of James Kouzes and Barry Posner in The Leadership Challenge, “Vision is a mental picture of what the future will look like. It expresses our highest standards and values.  It sets us apart and makes us feel special. It spans years of time and keeps us focused on the future.  And if it’s to be attractive to more than an insignificant few, it must appeal to all of those who have a stake in it.”

Building Shared Vision includes:

  • Developing clarity of personal vision
  • Listening to the hopes and dreams of congregants/constituents
  • Managing a process to result in congregational understanding and ownership
  • Developing a clear and compelling vision for the church
  • Communicating and reinforcing the vision

Best Practice Five:  Shaping of Values

Leaders are, in a sense, social architects. For better or worse, they shape the values of an organization. This is profoundly true of church leaders. Your most lasting legacy will be the way in which you shape the culture of your church. What are the most important beliefs and principles that guide your church? Those key core values are the absolute bedrock of the culture of your church.

Shaping of Values includes:

  • Clarity of personal values; consistency between espoused and lived values
  • Developing clarity and ownership of core values
  • Effective communication and reinforcing of values

Best Practice Six: Engaging Culture and Diversity

In today’s world, we encounter increasing numbers of people from different cultures.  The ability to connect and communicate with people from different cultures is critical to our effectiveness as leaders.  Oppression and tension between groups continues to emerge in the world and directly impacts those we serve.   In Reconciliation, Curtiss Paul DeYoung argues strongly that reconciliation is God’s primary agenda for our world, and must, therefore, be the agenda of people of faith. He says, “We who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ find ourselves struggling with the reality that the same walls we construct in our society are found in Christian community.”  We need to be able to move and minister in and to a multi‑cultural world and understand the connections between the oppression that we face and that faced by other groups, and be effective in bringing healing and reconciliation to our communities.

Engaging Culture and Diversity includes

  • Theological understanding and imperative for multi‑cultural work and reconciliation
  • Deeply held respect for others
  • Understanding dynamics of culture, power and context in individual and organizational behavior
  • Exploring issues of culture, gender and sexuality in own identity
  • Willingness to risk encounters with differences and learn from them

Best Practice Seven: Managing Paradox and Polarity

Many issues that we face in our lives are not simply yes or no, true or false, questions.  In fact, the most important questions that we deal with are often paradoxes.  For example, we are all currently living and dying at the same time.  To engage in critical theological thinking often requires us to engage paradoxes, such as systems thinking to understand the organizational behavior of a church.  Decisions are often best made in the context of both/and thinking when the leader is able to hold the tension between two poles.

Managing Paradox and Polarity includes:

  • Engaging in both/and thinking
  • Able to see contradictory forces as an opportunity rather than something that needs solving, balancing or compromising
  • Willingness and ability to engage in creative problem solving
  • Able to develop and view multiple options and to choose from among them
  • Ability to understand paradox within the framework of principles

Best Practice Eight: Leadership Empowerment

“Any leadership practice that increases another’s sense of self-confidence, self-determination, and personal effectiveness makes that person more powerful and greatly enhances the possibility of success,” according to Kouzes and Posner in The Leadership Challenge. It is the strongest and most secure leader who is able to freely give others her or his power, and in so doing discover the paradox that sharing power results in a much more powerful leader.

Leadership Empowerment includes:

  • Creating an environment in which leadership potential is realized
  • Creating the conditions for empowerment
  • Replicating leadership in your church

Servant Leadership: Diagnostic Questions for Self-Assessment

Best Practice One:  Self Awareness and Development

Spiritual centeredness; commitment and discipline to spiritual formation/direction/ growth/vitality

Do you have a sense of excitement and discovery about your spirituality?  Are you engaging new concepts and ideas in your spiritual life?  Have you recently read or listened to someone who feeds you spiritually? Do you meet personally with a spiritual director or advisor? Do you regularly engage in a spiritual discipline?  Do you experience a sense of engagement with God?  Have you participated in a retreat, study group, spiritual direction, or other opportunity for spiritual growth?

Healthy self‑identity, self‑esteem, self‑care

Do you have a strong sense of who you are?  Do you have the self‑esteem to both accept yourself as you are and to be comfortable in changing who you are over time?  Do you value yourself and your contributions in ministry?  Do you have reliable and consistent ways of finding rest and renewal?  Do you follow good practices for the well-being of your physical and emotional health?

A personal sense of purpose related to servanthood/trusteeship

Do you feel called to do the ministry that you are doing?  Do you feel that there is a purpose for you in that setting?  Do you value your service to others, to the church and to the world?  Do you have a sense of being a trustee of the resources that God has given to the church?  Do you find fulfillment in service and in empowering others to serve?

Development of a personal vision

What are your dreams and aspirations for the future of your ministry? Do you have a vision of where your ministry may be headed?  Are you comfortable in being open to the spirit about what you might do in the future? Have you given intentional and informed thought to the future of your ministry?  Have you developed specific plans or goals?

Growth and development of personal character: self‑discipline, responsibility, integrity, balance

Do you have the self‑discipline to accomplish what you need and want to do in your life?  Are you able to wait for success in the long term or do you need immediate satisfaction?  Are you comfortable in taking responsibility for your mistakes?  Your successes?  Do you have a strong sense of personal integrity?  Does your life feel balanced enough for you?

Developing systems/processes for personal and professional accountability

Do you have a personal accountability process?  Do you have specific, formal and intentional mechanisms for feedback on your performance of your leadership responsibilities?   To whom are you accountable?

Integrity in relationships

Are you able to maintain a sense of self in relation to others?  Are you guided by ethical principles about your relationship with others, particularly those in your congregation?  Are you clear about your own boundaries when relating to others?

Best Practice Two: Foundational Competence

Biblical/theological knowledge and skills

Do you have a solid, basic understanding of how the Bible was written, by whom and for whom?  Are you clear about where to get additional information about areas in which you are not certain?  Are you able to understand the world around you in light of your faith and the witness of the Bible?  Do you understand, and can respond to questions about, what the Bible says about homosexual, bisexual and transgendered people?  Are you comfortable with your understandings of these texts?  Do you have a solid, basic foundation of the development and schools of thought of theology?  Can you clearly articulate your personal theology?

Liturgical/worship/preaching knowledge and skills

Are you able to create appropriate and meaningful worship for regular and special occasions?  Do you have a clear understanding of how and why to incorporate different parts of worship to convey particular meanings?  Can you sense the flow of a worship service and take steps to correct difficulties?  Are you comfortable leading worship?  Praying in public?  Are you effective in communicating your message in preaching and in other forms of worship?  Have you found a style or styles of preaching that meets your needs as a preacher and the needs of your ministry setting?  Are you experiencing a deepening of your skills as you grow in ministry?  Do you feel comfortable empowering others as leaders in worship?  Is your worship leadership compatible with your personal beliefs?

Pastoral care knowledge and skills

Do you have a clear understanding of why you provide pastoral care and what you can offer others?  Are you comfortable in a variety of ministry settings, including hospitals and funeral homes?  Are you able to be present and centered with people who are joyful or distraught without being overwhelmed with their emotions?  Can you listen to others, even those very different from yourself, with openness and compassion?  Are you aware of transference and counter‑transference and how those dynamics may impact your pastoral care provision?  Do you understand the laws of your province, state and country that apply to you as a pastoral care provider, particularly in regards to mandatory reporting of abuse and individuals who may be in danger?   Are you clear about when you will refer someone to a professional therapist and do you have therapists to whom you are comfortable referring them?

Organizational development/management knowledge and skills

Do you have an awareness and understanding of the basic elements of organizational culture? Do you have an understanding of the basic cycles and processes of organizational development?  Do you have a basic understanding of church systems and conflict management? Do you understand the principles and processes of leading successful organizational change? Do you have an understanding of the basic tasks and processes of church management, such as planning, organizing, staffing and evaluation?

Interpersonal/communication knowledge and skills

Have you intentionally made an informed effort to improve your skills at listening? Are you able to accept people as they are, not as you would like them to be?  Are you able to approach relationships and problems in terms of the present rather than the past?  Do you treat those close to you with the same courteous attention that you extend to casual acquaintances? Are you able to trust others, even if the risk seems great?  Are you able to do without constant approval and recognition from others? Do you have an understanding of the dynamics and levels of conflict that occurs in churches?  Do you have the skills necessary to lead your congregation through conflict?

Best Practice Three: Learning Competence

“Leadership is never really learned; it is ongoing learning,” says organizational development specialist Peter Vaill in Spirited Leading and Learning. He adds, “To be immersed in a learning process is to be continually confronted with newness— new problems, ideas, techniques, concepts; new gestalts; new possibilities and new limits; new awareness and understandings of oneself.  Learning also means reinterpreting things already understood and letting go of former understandings and techniques, even if at the level of brain physiology one never literally ‘unlearns.’ To be immersed in newness is to feel like a beginner.”

Personal passion for and commitment to growth

Have you reflected on what significant personal and professional changes you have made in the last year?  Have you identified what changes you need to make personally and professionally during the next six months?  Do you establish annual personal goals for learning and growth?  Have you established an ongoing relationship with one or more coaches/mentors to guide your own growth? Do you actively read the publications that inform your passion and vision; do you find teaching and guidance from authors as mentors?  Have you reflected on your most significant teachers/mentors over the past five years and how you have changed as a result of their influence? Are you part of a team committed to ongoing learning?

Creating a learning environment

Do you encourage leaders to take risks and engage mistakes positively as learning experiences?  Do you model a willingness to embrace criticism as vital to personal and organizational learning?  Have you informed your understanding and awareness of learning modes and learning skills, of understanding the differences in how individuals learn? Are you establishing the use of teams for ministry in your church?

Creating processes for feedback

Do you have any formal processes to receive feedback on your job performance?  Do your processes of feedback include both people to whom you are accountable and those accountable to you, as well as your peers?  Do you have a small accountability group with whom you can periodically receive feedback and support to improve your leadership?

Team reflection/learning skills

Are you informed regarding the effective use of teams to structure ministry in the local church?  Are the ministries of your church structured as self-managing teams?  Do you work to create alignment between ministry teams and the core values, purpose and vision of your church? Do team members have the skills of inquiry and advocacy to discern, assess and interpret current reality, and to review and revise their own mental models? Do the ministry teams effectively use the practices of dialogue and discussion to foster learning?  Do your teams manifest a healthy, visible conflict of ideas?  Do the teams openly embrace criticism and the willingness to engage difficult issues?

Best Practice Four: Building Shared Vision

“Vision refers to a picture of the future with some implicit or explicit commentary on why people should try to create that future,” says Harvard professor of leadership John Kotter in Leading Change. In the words of James Kouzes and Barry Posner in The Leadership Challenge, “Vision is a mental picture of what the future will look like. It expresses our highest standards and values.  It sets us apart and makes us feel special. It spans years of time and keeps us focused on the future.  And if it’s to be attractive to more than an insignificant few, it must appeal to all of those who have a stake in it.”

Developing clarity of personal vision

Do you have a clear understanding of what is really important to you?  Do you continuously devote specific time to clarify what is most important to you?  Do you have a personal dream, vision, goal or agenda for your future?  Do you regularly and specifically seek God’s guidance in the shaping of your own vision for the future? Do you reflect on why your personal vision is important?  Do you devote time to assessing the difference between current reality (where you are now) and your vision (where you want to be in the future)?

Listening to the hopes and dreams of congregants/constituents

Are you creating a context of listening and creating dreams for the future of your congregation? Does this context include strong focus on core values; getting in touch with ourselves, who we are and what we care about?  Does this context intentionally provide process to recall the richness of past experience to enhance our ability to dream of the future?  Does this process help people consider the current realities of today which influence opportunities for tomorrow?

Managing a process to result in congregational understanding and ownership

Do you have awareness of and comfort with the dynamics of leading change in your church? Have you established a guiding coalition to develop, promote and win support for the vision?  Do members of this coalition have sufficient credibility, expertise, position to influence, and leadership ability to be effective? Has the guiding coalition developed a clear process to win wide‑ spread understanding and ownership of the vision?  Have you identified stakeholders, those people who will be impacted by the change required to attain the vision?  Is there a process to engage and win the enthusiasm and support of those stakeholders?

Developing a clear and compelling vision for the church

As a key leader of your church, do you have a clear agenda for the future of your church?  What is your own vision for the future of your church?  Do you have a process for creating alignment with the hopes and dreams of other key leaders for the future of your church?  Have you developed a written draft of a vision for the future of your church?  Is the guiding coalition acting as a team to model and modify that draft over time?

Communicating and reinforcing the vision

Can the vision be explained in very simple and clear language within five minutes and stir excitement in the hearer? Is the vision explained and discussed in multiple forums: meetings, memos, newsletters, formal and informal interaction? Is there intentional repetition of communicating the vision?  Does communicating the vision include opportunity for the give and take of two‑way communication?  Do key leaders model behavior consistent with the vision?

Best Practice Five: Shaping of Values

Leaders are, in a sense, social architects. For better or worse, they shape the values of an organization. This is profoundly true of church leaders. Your most lasting legacy will be the way in which you shape the culture of your church. What are the most important beliefs and principles that guide your church? Those key core values are the absolute bedrock of the culture of your church.

Clarity of personal values; consistency between espoused and lived values

Have you taken the time to reflect on the most important beliefs and principles that guide your life?  Have you committed the results of that reflection to writing, such as a personal credo or vision? Does interaction with others result in both the sharing and shaping of your own values?  Do you model your own values through personal example and dedicated follow-through?

Developing clarity and ownership of core values

Has your church engaged an intentional process to identify and describe its key core values?  Has the process resulted in a written description of the key beliefs, core values, guiding principles, or the priorities of your church?  Have a majority of congregants in your church participated in the discussion and/or decisions on the core values of your church?  Are the leaders of various ministries in your church able to describe the core values of your church?

Effective communication and reinforcing of values

Has everyone in your congregation been provided a written description of the key core values of your church?  Do you engage and lift up the key core values in the preaching and teaching cycles of your church?  Do you provide definition and reflection on the key core values for new attendees and members in your church?  Do you reinforce the key core values by what is recognized and rewarded in your church?

Best Practice Six: Engaging Culture and Diversity

In today’s world, we encounter increasing numbers of people from different cultures.  The ability to connect and communicate with people from different cultures is critical to our effectiveness as leaders.  Oppression and tension between groups continues to emerge in the world and directly impacts those we serve.   In Reconciliation, Curtiss Paul DeYoung argues strongly that reconciliation is God’s primary agenda for our world, and must, therefore, be the agenda of people of faith. He says, “We who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ find ourselves struggling with the reality that the same walls we construct in our society are found in Christian community.”  We need to be able to move and minister in and to a multi‑cultural world and understand the connections between the oppression that we face and that faced by other groups, and be effective in bringing healing and reconciliation to our communities.

Theological understanding and imperative for multi‑cultural work and reconciliation

Do you have a sense of what God’s vision for a multi‑cultural world might be?  Do you see reconciliation as a key part of the ministry to which we are called?  Do you have a clear picture of how the Bible calls for justice, in a historical context and for the current world?   Do you see God working for reconciliation in this world and do you feel that you can work with God in the work of reconciliation?

Deeply held respect for others

Do you see others, particularly those who are different from you, as equal partners in the dominion of God?  Do you have a respect for God’s presence within the lives of others?

Understanding dynamics of culture, power and context in individual and organizational behavior

Do you understand the history of your own country/ies and part of the world that includes issues of race and gender?   Do you see connections between oppression based on race, class, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation?  Do you understand how the dynamics of power influence individual behavior within a church?  Do you have at least a basic knowledge of how racism, sexism and other forms of oppression have shaped the ways in which people communicate, interact and feel connected to one another?

Exploring issues of culture, gender and sexuality in own identity

Do you have a sense of your own roots and heritage?   Do you feel that you have something to contribute in a multi‑cultural world?   Have you explored issues of culture, gender and sexuality within your own life that allows you to gain perspective on those issues in the life of the church?

Willingness to risk encounters with differences and learn from them

Are you willing to risk encountering differences that may shake or shift your world view?  Do you have enough self‑esteem to risk making mistakes in interactions with others and be willing to learn from them?  Do your personal and professional networks include people from different races, cultures, genders and sexual orientations than your own?   Do you feel a sense of excitement about learning from those of other cultures or experiences?

Best Practice Seven: Managing Paradox and Polarity

Many issues that we face in our lives are not simply yes or no, true or false, questions.  In fact, the most important questions that we deal with are often paradoxes.  For example, we are all currently living and dying at the same time.  To engage in critical theological thinking often requires us to engage paradoxes, such as systems thinking to understand the organizational behavior of a church.  Decisions are often best made in the context of both/and thinking when the leader is able to hold the tension between two poles.

Engaging in both/and thinking

When you face a decision or look at a situation, are you able to see more than one possible issue or outcome, even when those are, on the surface, contradictory?  Are you able to see more than one side a problem or situation?  Are you comfortable in a world of thought that encompasses both/and?

Able to see contradictory forces as an opportunity rather than something that needs solving, balancing or compromising

Do you have a basic knowledge of polarity management and system thinking?  Are you comfortable leaving things, when it is appropriate, without solutions or answers?  How do you decide when this is the case?   Are you comfortable with a level of ambiguity or do you need answers for every problem?

Willingness and ability to engage in creative problem solving

Are you able to “think outside the box”?  Do you have ways of overcoming blocks in your thought process and helping you come up with more creative solutions?   Do you have a sense of optimism about your ability to solve problems?  Have you achieved a comfortable balance between following your instincts and using more reasoned ways of decision-making?  Do you trust yourself to make good decisions and solve problems?

Able to develop and view multiple options and to choose from among them

Can you usually think of multiple solutions to any one problem or do you usually select the first one that comes to mind?  Do you try to understand the costs and benefits of each course of action before selecting one?  Are you able to see multiple options and make a clear decision about one of them or do a number of options confuse your thinking and make you feel overwhelmed?  Are you willing to try a different solution if the one you selected fails to work?

Ability to understand paradox within the framework of principles

Do you have guiding principles that enable you to make good decisions in the midst of multiple options?

Best Practice Eight: Leadership Empowerment

“Any leadership practice that increases another’s sense of self-confidence, self-determination, and personal effectiveness makes that person more powerful and greatly enhances the possibility of success,” according to Kouzes and Posner in The Leadership Challenge. It is the strongest and most secure leader who is able to freely give others her or his power, and in so doing discover the paradox that sharing power results in a much more powerful leader.

Creating an environment in which leadership potential is realized

Do you sustain the integrity of your own leadership by consistent harmony between your words and deeds, your values and habits? Do you understand the dynamics of influence?  Do you believe that many people in your church have leadership potential and are you looking for that potential constantly?  Do you provide an intentional teaching cycle for the development of leaders? Are you willing to give your power to others in order to strengthen them for a larger purpose and put them more in control of their own lives? Do you foster an abundance mentality rather than a scarcity mentality?  Do you practice an intentional pattern of recognizing the achievements of others in your church?

Creating the conditions for empowerment

Do you work with individuals or teams for each job to develop a win-win agreement; a written outline of desired results, guidelines, resources, accountabilities, and consequences?  Are the individuals and teams allowed to supervise themselves consistent with the win-win agreement and the core values, vision and mission of your church?  Are the structures and systems of your church integrated with and supportive of the win-win agreements?

Replicating leadership in your church

Have you made the development of other leaders in your church one of your highest priorities?  Have you identified and are you coaching someone to be qualified to take your place?  Do you have apprentices for each of the leadership roles in your church? Have you taken intentional steps to improve your own skills of mentoring and coaching? Are you currently coaching or mentoring at least two or three other people in places of leadership?  Are you empowering new leadership through the use of self-directed ministry teams?

Resources for Servant Leadership

Updated November 13, 2009; highly recommended books/authors noted by asterisk *

Bennis, Warren and Nanus, Burt, Leaders: the Strategies for Taking Charge (New York: Harper & Row, 1985). This is one of the earliest and most important books in a flood of literature on the subject of organizational leadership. It continues to be an excellent guide to key leadership competencies.  See also the subsequent books by Warren Bennis: On Becoming a Leader (1989) and Reinventing Leadership (1995 with Robert Townsend).

*Blanchard, Ken, Leading at a Higher Level (Upper Saddle River NJ: Prentice Hall, 2007) Written by the author of the popular best-selling The One Minute Manager, this book translates decades of research and 25 years of global consulting experience into simple and practical strategies that equip leaders at every level to build high-performing organizations.  Like others by Blanchard, this book is seen through the lens of servant leadership.

Blanchard, Ken, Hybels, Bill and Hodges, Phil, Leadership by the Book (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1999). This book offers a wonderful, very readable narrative which defines leadership character, methods and behavior from the perspective of a servant leader.

Cialdini, Robert B., Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1991) This is an excellent book on the dynamics of influence. It defines six fundamental psychological principles of persuasion. The author is a professor of psychology at Arizona State University.

*Collins, Jim, Good to Great (New York: Harper Collins, 2001) On the Business Week magazine’s best-seller list for several years, this book by a former faculty member at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business offers some highly useful concepts for building leadership excellence.  A companion monograph published in 2005, Good to Great and the Social Sectors, is very helpful in adapting the concepts to a church setting. Also see Collin’s earlier book Built to Last (written with Jerry Porras) which he recommends that you read as a sequel to his more recent books.

Cordeiro, Wayne, Doing Church as a Team (Ventura: Regal, 2005) One of the newest rapidly growing megachurches is the context for innovative approaches to leadership development, including the use of “fractal” teams as the basic structure for ministry. Written by the founding pastor, this book presents a very simple and exiting view of a very dynamic church.

Covey, Stephen R., Principle-Centered Leadership (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990) Written by the author of the highly popular and best-selling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, this book gives a very clear comprehensive and readable guide to essential leadership principles.  Especially helpful are the chapters on the “Thirty Methods of Influence” and “Six Conditions of Empowerment.”

DeYoung, Curtiss Paul, Reconciliation: Our Greatest Challenge – Our Only Hope (Valley Forge PA: Judson Press, 1997) The author provides a thought provoking and practical blue print for the biblical, multi-racial and multi-cultural elements essential to holistic reconciliation.

*Easum, William M. and Bandy, Thomas G., Growing Spiritual Redwoods (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997) Noted church development analyst Lyle Schaller says this book “may be the most significant study book for congregational leaders published in this century.”  This book is a “must read” for church leaders.

Farson, Richard, Management of the Absurd (New York: Touchstone by Simon & Schuster, 1996) This small, short and delightful book on the paradoxes in leadership may well be one of the best books on leadership that you will ever read.

George, Bill, with Sims, Peter, True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2007) From a successful business executive who now teaches at the Harvard Business School, this book presents a concrete and comprehensive program for leadership success and shows how to create your own “Personal Leadership Development Plan.”

Greenleaf, Robert K., Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness (Mauwah NJ: Paulist Press, 1977) This very influential book by a lifetime executive of AT&T introduces the importance of servant leadership in all kinds of institutions, including churches.  Greenleaf presents landmark ideas that have been built upon by others since. Particularly recommended is his chapter on “Servant Leadership in Churches.”

*Hackman, J. Richard, Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2002). The author, a professor of organizational psychology at Harvard University is one of the world’s leading experts on group and organizational behavior.  With extraordinary insights on how people work together, Hackman discusses five enabling conditions essential for effective teams. This book is written with great clarity and wit and is enjoyable to read.

Hargrove, Robert, Masterful Coaching (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer, 1995) A good guide to coaching set in the context of the learning organization as defined by Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline

Jones, James D., and Anderson, Ezra Earl, The Management of Ministry (New York: Harper & Row, 1968 – Reprinted in paperback 1990 by HarperCollins) This book presents an excellent perspective on basic principles of church leadership and management and provides helpful guidance along with practical tools.

Katzenbach, Jon R., and Smith, Douglas K., The Wisdom of Teams (New York: Harper Business, 1993) This book offers an unusually thorough study of teams.  As well as challenging much conventional wisdom about teams, the book is full of advice for effective teams. It is one of the best books available on the subject.  See also their sequel, The Discipline of Teams (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2001), which adds insights gained since the publication of their earlier work and serves as workbook for implementing team disciplines.

*Kotter, John P., Leading Change (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1996) This Business Week magazine best-seller is without doubt the clearest guide to leading change in today’s volatile world. Written by a leading professor of leadership at Harvard University, this easy-to-read book will show you the way to effective implementation of change.  All church leaders should read this book!  He has also written (with Holger Rathgeber) an enjoyable fable about a penguin colony, Our Iceberg Is Melting (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2005), which shows how the “Eight Steps of Successful Change” can be used in any kind of group.

*Kouzes, James M. and Posner, Barry Z., The Leadership Challenge (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1995) Resulting from research with hundreds of ordinary people who described what they did when at their “personal best,” this book identifies the key standards for excellence in leadership.  This book is a primer.  It really defines the basics of leadership. Also see their more recent books, Encouraging the Heart: A Leader’s Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others (1999) and Christian Reflections on The Leadership Challenge (2004)

*Lowney, Chris, Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company that Changed the World (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2003) The author, a former Jesuit and managing director of J.P. Morgan, brings focus to the leadership principles that have guided the Jesuits for 450 years leading them to become one of history’s most enduring enterprises.  In addition to its superb leadership insights, Heroic Leadership is wonderfully absorbing to read.

Maxwell, John C., The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1998) Written from the perspective of a pastor of an evangelical church, this best-selling book gives an excellent overview of the basics of effective leadership.  Maxwell also conducts seminars very popular with church leaders, and many will find familiar themes in this most recent of his books.  See also his earlier book, Developing the Leader Within You, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1993)

Senge, Peter M., The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization (New York: Doubleday, 1990) This is arguably one of the most influential business books of the past few decades.  It’s long, and dense with important information; heavy to read, but full of insight. It is really foundational for much of what is happening in many organizations today.  It is a book to be read and re-read. See also Senge’s later book, The Dance of Change, a resource supporting the Fifth Discipline.  Published by Doubleday in New York, 1999. These books are also available on audio tape cassettes.

Shawchuck, Norman and Heuser, Roger, Leading the Congregation (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993) This book offers a good basic overview of leadership issues in the church.  It is well-informed by the current developments in business and other non-profit sectors.

*Salerno, Ann, and Brock, Lillie, The Change Cycle: How People Can Survive and Thrive in Organizational Change (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2008). The authors teach readers about six predictable and sequential stages that accompany any sort of change. They offer tools and success strategies needed for individuals at all levels, helping them understand what they ought to expect, from themselves and others, as they move through each stage.

Sweet, Leonard, AquaChurch (Loveland, CO: Group Publishing, Inc., 1999). The author is a theologian, historian and futurist who has focused a great deal on the “postmodern” shifts and their impact on the church of the twenty-first century.  Sweet’s work is always well-informed on contemporary trends; a good place to get a feel for what’s new.  This book has the subtitle, “Essential Leadership Arts for Piloting Your Church in Today’s Fluid Culture.”

Vaill, Peter B., Spirited Leading and Learning (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1998) This is a collection of essays by one of the top ten organizational development specialists in the USA.  It is filled with many insights on leadership including that of the inherent spirituality of organizations.

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