Tag Archives: level 5 leadership

conviction, collaboration and calling: the piece-parts of a 21st century leader

leadership is changing. and this is a very, very good thing.

the era of the autocratic, top-down leader is gone. a new kind of leader — one who leads without power — is on the rise.

while it’s fantastic to see this new approach to leadership gaining ground in the world of business, it’s sad to me that the church — the place where this jesus-y style of leadership should have been in place all along — is behind.

i’ve just finished a year with my second youth ministry coaching program cohort. and as i wrote ‘growth affirmation and challenge’ sheets for each of the participants, naming the amazing transformation i’ve seen in each of their lives this past year, i was once again struck by how many churches are riddled with lousy leadership. during one of my 1-on-1 coaching sessions with a participant, on the last day, we were talking about leadership, and i surprised myself when the subject of this post came out of my mouth (all starting with the same letter — how rick warren of me!). i said,

great leaders are anchored by three things: conviction, collaboration, and calling.

conviction isn’t about being the sole vision castor.
it’s not about forcing an agenda onto everyone.
it’s not about being the heavy.

conviction is about being a culture evangelist and mission curator.

conviction is about ruthlessly protecting the values, and not being swayed by attractive ideas (financially beneficial, numerical growth beneficial, keeping the peace, pleasing the powerful) that erode the values.

collaboration isn’t about forced fun.
it’s not about tokenism.
and it doesn’t mean democracy.

collaboration is about being a uniqueness dj. collaboration is about creating space and processes and an ecosystem the values meaningful input, and offers active participation at every level.

and calling. calling isn’t about filling seats.
it’s not about manipulation.
it’s not about isolation.

calling is about being a storytelling host, a champion of hope, and a trust guard.

calling is about living into who you were made to be. it’s the self-actualized leader, humble and open, rooted in a spiritual sense of urgency, committed to the mission and unwavering in a sense of movement. it’s about living this, and calling others to this greater purpose.

conviction, collaboration, and calling. how are you living them out this week?

leading without power, part 1

i don’t think i’m alone when i admit that i’ve had issues with power, probably for most of my life. and it’s strangely paradoxical that my struggle with power (as in, i want it, too much) has played a huge role in me being put in roles where i had power. that twisted reality is, i think, a reflection of our church culture buying into broader american power values. no need to harp too much on that — we see nasty abuse of power all around us in the church.

my current employment status (as in, self-employed) is the first time in about 20 years or so that i haven’t had employees who report to me. and i’m starting to see these questions of power and leadership in a new light. maybe it took a complete lack of power in order for me to learn something about this.

of course, i’m challenged by jesus. he’s certainly not powerless. dude had/has plenty o’ power. so the question shifts from quantity to quality; or, the question shifts from if one can exercise power to how one exercises power. and, what form that power takes. i’m sure there are a hundred more forms, but here’s a short list of power forms, good, bad and indifferent:

• Coercion
• Manipulation
• Positional authority
• Official dispenser of rewards & punishment
• Paycheck signer
• Ability to control
• Personality
• Ideation
• Encouragement
• Truth telling
• Serving
• Facilitation

jim collins’ notion of ‘level 5 leadership’ (here’s a helpful harvard business review article on level 5 leadership, written by collins), developed first in his book good to great, has been messing with me for years. i’ve blogged about it many times (here’s one), actually, because it haunts me. the level 5 leader (a very, very rare leader, btw) possesses a “paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.” and, at the end of the day, isn’t that a pretty good description of jesus’ leadership and use of power? it’s also, unfortunately, not the approach to power we see in most churches (or other places of leadership, to be fair).

let me dive in with this proposal: 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.)

sure, we can argue semantics and reframe power in positive ways (like the power of servant leadership). but, for our purposes here, let’s just stick with the more common understood (and exercised) concept of power — the ability and practice of exerting influence over others whether they want it or not. that’s the kind of power i’d like to see (mostly) excised from church leadership. (i concede with a little “mostly” there, because if i were the exec pastor or senior pastor of a church today, i’m sure there would be times when i would ‘exert influence over others when they didn’t want it’ — whether i’d be right or wrong is a separate conversation.)

here’s a paradigmatic shift idea: church leadership needs to move from a paradigm of control to one of facilitation.
in this context: facilitation = identifying and nurturing competencies

if you follow this blog at all, you’ll likely recognize that language. i picked it up in a conversation with dr. ropert epstein, while talking about how his parenting has shifted, in the midst of a broader conversation about infantilization and extended adolescence, and have mentioned it here more than once. but i’ve started to see that shift’s applicability in so many other contexts of my life. and, really, doesn’t it make great sense here?

where this post series is headed: i’ve come up with 9 new metaphors for ‘powerless leadership’. i hope they’ll stir your thinking and nudge you (and me) off balance a bit. i hope we can take them on a road trip together — test ’em out a bit. i’ll unpack one or two per post, and see where it takes us.