For the week of March 14, 2005

Barriers to Effective Leadership Teams Part 2: The Presence of Fear
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 presence of fear and apprehension has a crippling and immobilizing effect on leadership teams. This fear can be both personal on the part of one or more individuals in the group, or it can be a collective fear within the group as a whole. In both cases, the fear can be real or imagined. It is a rare leadership team that surfaces fears and apprehensions and addresses them proactively. Avoidance has become the dominant behavior of would-be leadership teams.

This dynamic of avoidance is one of the driving dynamics working against successful turnaround or revitalization efforts in declining congregations. Rather than the leadership team openly working through issues together as they arise, these teams move ahead with the turnaround until the pain of a philosophical or values clash erupts in one or more of the team members—or in a congregational stakeholder. Then the idea, program, or initiative that triggered the anxiety spike is summarily axed.

One of the central reasons that fears and apprehensions breed and gain a foothold in leadership teams is an absence of relationship and community below the surface level. We are finding that it’s the rare team that spends much time together outside of agenda-driven meetings. Remember, community is not a by-product of meetings! Few teams ever get around to sharing from the heart regarding their hopes and dreams, much less fostering a climate welcoming openness and vulnerability about an individual’s fears and apprehensions. Two simple actions that can warm up the relational climate in your team are to gather for a meal together on a regular basis (no business agenda, just eating), and to dedicate at least one scheduled meeting each month to prayer, preferably in someone’s home.