Inculating a Shared Leadership DNA

The most common threat to shared leadership DNA in organizations is role confusion among the organization’s various leadership elements. This shows up as an absence of clarity regarding the specific boundaries and functions of the board and the operational management team.   Regardless of the type of organization, it is common for these two leadership elements to collide with one another, frequently crippling the growth and development of the organization. In the absence of a clearly defined, compelling vision for their work together, these leaders easily fall into the mode of perpetuating long held patterns of behavior.  Staff and board members become stratified around different and sometimes competing agendas. They find themselves tied up in endless meetings and functionally doing little to advance the overall mission of the organization.

Examine how the functional relationship between the board and management components is working in your congregation. Is there clear communication between these functional pieces of the cohort (whether you are functioning with a single group of leaders addressing both functions or with two groups)?  Are there issues that are taboo to talk about?  What weaknesses are you living with today in your leadership system?

Here is an exercise that may help you move towards role clarity in your leadership team.

First, as a group, determine the length of time you will devote to praying and listening to God on this matter.  Consider investing a minimum of three weeks for prayerful listening.  During this time, ask the group to pray and reflect individually on the questions, “What does God desire this group to be and do in this season of the congregation’s life?” and “What are the specific roles and tasks that currently consume our time individually and collectively as leaders in this place?”  Insist that the group record their thoughts and impressions during this time of prayer and listening. Distribute 3×5 cards to each person, asking them to use as many cards as they need in responding to the above questions

Immediately following this time of listening, schedule two extended sessions of two to three hours each for the leadership team to spend time together processing what God has revealed to the group members in their time of prayer.  In these sessions the following basic framework is suggested (make sure all responses are recorded on flipcharts or electronically):

1.  Make a list of the roles and tasks that presently consume the time of the leaders both individually and collectively as a group.

2.  Facilitate a time for sharing the ideas or burdens that have come to each individual regarding the future. What do they see as God’s call to this leadership team for the future?

3.  Look at what your leadership team spends its time doing.  Does your behavior reflect your stated role and function?  Are the things you are doing as a team leading you toward your stated target?

4.  Prayerfully consider, over a period of time, which leadership functions are most important

5.  Prioritize the aggregate list of leadership roles and tasks. If precision is not a concern, the list can be voted on by giving each person 5 “votes” which they can use to identify the group’s top five functional priorities.

6.   Prayerfully seek agreement on a functional short list of group priorities, perhaps three to five.   Which tasks on the longer list do we need to delete, to stop doing? Which tasks could another team or group in the congregation address more effectively?

7.   Develop an action plan for ceasing or handing off to others those roles and tasks that are not priorities.

8.   After discerning the leadership priorities, it will take collective diligence to ensure the group does not fall back into the mire of long established counterproductive meeting and leadership habits.  Begin to communicate to the congregation the group’s emerging focus and the functional implications for the congregation.

There are few exercises leadership teams can undertake that will have the kind of long-term payout that clarifying their role and function will have. Don’t lose heart or give up during the process. It will take time for the leadership team to behave consistently with the new priorities.