leading without power, part 2

yesterday i started a series of posts on a shift in thinking about and application of power in leadership. my framing contentions are:
power-based leadership has no place in the church.
(and: power-based leadership is a culturally-waning paradigm in all contexts, because we live in a wiki, prosumer culture.)

church leadership needs to move from a paradigm of control to one of facilitation.
in this context: facilitation = identifying and nurturing competencies

with that in mind, i’d like to suggest nine new metaphors and mindsets for powerless leadership. here are the first three:

Competency Facilitator

i admit this is a little repetitive of the paradigmatic shift i just suggested. but “competency facilitator” is such a potent metaphor, such a pregnant imaginary job title.

as a competency facilitator, my leadership role is to be curious about strengths, potentialities, and each person’s unique made-in-god’s-imageness. i am not exerting force on people, but am leading through nurturing. my greatest leadership is to call out what others might not (yet) see, or even what the person might not (yet) see about herself. and, more than only calling out these competencies, my role is to create supportive spaces for the person to test-run these competencies. i support, offer feedback, and continue to point out growth and development.

i posted this quote once before, but it’s such a great reminder of my natural proclivity to be the opposite of a competency facilitator. it’s from max depree’s brilliantly-title, but otherwise somewhat mediocre book called ‘leading without power’:

Esther and i have eleven grandchildren. One of them born weeks premature is now in 3rd grade, and while she has some special challenges, she is really doing quite well. One day when she was three years old, she came to visit me in my office, which is in a small condominium. She said, “Grandpa, would you like to see me run?” And I must tell you, my heart jumped. I thought to myself, this little girl can hardly walk. How is she going to run? But like a good grandparent, I said, “Yes, I’d like to see you run.” She walked over to one side of the room and started to run, right across in front of my desk and directly into the side of a refrigerator. It knocked her on her back, and there she lay, spread-eagled on the floor with a big grin on her face. Like any good manager, I immediately went over with a solution. i said, “honey, you’ve got to learn to stop.” And she looked up at me with a big smile and said, “but, grandpa, I’m learning to run.”

i’ve been challenged in recent months about the importance of meaningful responsibility, particularly in terms of teenagers and young adults moving to adulthood. i am witnessing a real-life example of this with my daughter. liesl (almost 17, a junior in high school) is passionate about the environment. she was one of two participants on the dwindling ‘planet team’ in our church’s high school ministry. the team’s primary responsibility is to collect recyclables from the church, to provide funding for some sponsor children. the team was without an adult leader. and, while all the other leadership teams in our high school ministry had an adult leader, our astute high school pastor saw liesl passion and competency, and took a chance on her. he asked her to lead the team. she has completely risen to the responsibility, recruiting a larger team, producing a recruitment video, training the team and hosting them for social stuff, and ensuring the work gets done. it has been a major win in terms of her development, and a great experience of owning meaningful responsibility.

of course, this isn’t just about competency in teenagers – this applies to all our leadership relationships, not the least of which is with volunteers in church ministry.

next up: Culture Evangelist

18 thoughts on “leading without power, part 2”

  1. This is hard to do–often because we leaders have a ministry agenda/vision/mission, and we try to use our power to see that agenda come to pass. In this paradigm, it requires us to look intently at the people we lead and really value them as persons, not merely as means to our ends. “What would be best for them?” vs. “What would be best for my ministry?”

  2. Okay, I know the pix aren’t the point to these posts, but holy cow. I agree with Paul – sick (in a gross kind of way). That doesn’t even look good or real. How does that guy get around?

  3. Yes, terribly gross picture! I’m creeped out.

    I find these series of posts to totally be a God thing, as God has been leading me in a new direction in how I lead others and lead the ministry. A lot about leadership seems to becoming up in blog reader, which I think is a great confirmation of what God is trying to teach me :)
    I have struggled for a long time with the idea of a student leadership team. I have always believe students can and should be leaders in the ministry. But I hadn’t seen another method besides creating a team. And some of my personal issue with them is I was never invited onto one as student. I think they tend to lead to favoritism. So I am envisioning and putting into a way that releases all students to be leaders and take ownership within the ministry based on their passions. I am having students work in teams in the areas of teaching, worship, fellowship, and service to begin to lead and take ownership of these areas, along with an adult advisor. I think it will be a great opportunity develop gifts, bonds, and for discipleship. So I am excited to continue to follow this series. It has been a great confirmation of what God is doing in me and in the ministry. And it will continue to firm up these new ideas for what it means for me to be a leader.

    Thanks for these posts!

  4. so i’m having coffee with a close friend who is one of the key people at Electronic Arts. He asked me what my take on the Church is… & this is the primary issue we talk about. His view… “the Church is still command & control” and gives a fascinating examples from churches and business. Then described a “bottom up” culture at EA its advantages & challenges. Interesting to feel that “vibe” on their campus. (wont go into detail but some very obvious differences… & we would all want them in our churches)

    wow… could it be that corporate America knows more about community building then we do?

    maybe video games aren’t that bad for us after all?

  5. I think the church could learn a ton of lessons from corporate America on community building, strategic thinking, metrics, systems thinking, marketing, “consumer” profiling/awareness, and market analysis. I’m still learning :^)

    Isn’t it interesting how relatively quickly established churches face, and often succumb to, the temptation of control-oriented power. New churches are more inclined to be innovative and from-the-ground-up community. What if we as the church were able to somehow create a dynamic community culture and…create experiences and encounters of the Acts1:8 variety of power?

  6. Love this idea!

    This is something we are trying to live out within our youth group. Since August we have been talking about the Body of Christ and how we are each uniquely gifted to play a part in it. When we each bring our uniquenesses together as one, we truly begin living out what it means to be the Body of Christ.

    So, we had them do many reflections on what they see as their gifts and also take some gift assessments. We finished by giving each of them a card with a list of the gifts they were assessed to have (not sharing with them the ones they don’t) and with each gift we gave them a definition, scripture references, and examples of how it can be lived out in the Body.

    Now, we are starting as a group to shape what our ministry looks like based on the gathering of gifts in the group, not just trying to make them fit into what we already have.

    I think that the real work of a facilitator is to be willing to step out of “what we have always done” and be able to see and develop a unique ministry based upon the gifts/needs of adults, church, community, and especially the students within our context. I think that context is crucial with ministry.

    I am very excited with these posts and they once again help give me words to what is going on in my head.
    Thanks Marko!

  7. Competency Facilitator: i think a pastor (youth, lead, senior, worship, whoever) has to be engrained with this idea through their internship or growing up…how can this be taught to a senior guy whose been doing power leadership for 20 years? i’ve seen the power leadership hurt feelings of ministry leaders and do things/say/email things that in other churches could make that person get outsted…

    now that i work outside the church but with DCS (child services) and probation clients i see how different case managers and probation officers lead their clients…some do it with their power, some do it by trying to improve lives and family situations by competency facilitation…

    the competency facilitation works out best most if not all of the time. of course, the person has to want to lead/change. which is why liesl thrives at leading a group of her peers, and the 3rd grader doesn’t care if she runs into the fridge because she wants to run.

    in the church, i tried and tried to partner w/ parents. i do admit i didn’t do it the way i do it now, which is probably why i do not work on a church staff anymore…but how do we get parents to buy into this concept instead of ‘lording’ over their children? then parents can buy into the programming of a church knowing how to best bring out the talents within their children that God has given them…

    how can parents move from power leadership to competency facilitation?

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