For the week of March 07, 2005

Barriers to Effective Leadership Teams: Part 1: The Absence of Shared DNA
By: John Laster
There are three common, interrelated barriers to more effective leadership teams: the absence of a shared DNA, the presence of fear, and a lack of trust within the team itself.

The concept of “shared DNA” contains two distinct strands. The first strand, and the one receiving most attention, is developing a common understanding of the congregation’s mission, vision, values, and beliefs. The second and almost universally ignored strand of a leadership team’s DNA, is developing a common understanding of the specific role and function of the team itself. It is a rare team that clearly understands their role, and function together. In the absence of clarity on this point, it is little wonder that, in functional terms, teams are generally scattered, pursuing divergent and often competing agendas. In light of this, are we surprised that “leadership teams” rarely provide leadership? It takes time for a group to prayerfully discern their role as a leadership team in “this congregation at this time.” Once a team is clear about their role, it becomes easy to say “no” to a plethora of encroaching tasks and concerns.

There is not one template for congregations to follow with regard to leadership roles and expectations. The challenge is for each congregation to prayerfully discern a functional response to these issues in a way that fits their context. A basic process includes a season (perhaps three to six weeks) of prayer and, ideally, fasting to seek clarity on God’s intentions, calling, and direction for the leadership team. In other words, what does God desire this team to be and to do? Immediately following this season of “listening,” schedule a couple of extended sessions of two to three hours each (minimum) for the leadership team to be together and process their thoughts. In these sessions, move through the following basic framework:

1. Facilitate a time for sharing the ideas or burdens that have come to each individual in the season of discernment. Log the details that surface.
2. Capture the roles and tasks that consume the time of the leaders both individually and collectively.
3. Dialogue about the disparity (this is usually blatantly obvious) between the burdens God has laid on your hearts and the roles and tasks that consume your time. Spend time in prayer over the disparities, asking God for clarity and wisdom on how to proceed.
4. Prioritize the aggregate list of leadership roles and tasks. Prayerfully seek agreement on a functional short list of leadership team priorities.
5. Develop an action plan for ceasing, or handing off to others, those roles and tasks that are not priorities within the next four to six weeks.
6. Begin to communicate to the congregation the emerging focus of the leadership team and the functional implications for the congregation.