Part 2: Leading the Transformation

Have you ever had the burden of making decisions that were either going to be scrutinized or rewarded solely because you were the leader? Or have you ever tried to implement a new way of doing things in your ministry organization but discovered painful obstacles and walls of resistance? 

I use to work with a Pastor who was so passionate about the ministry he had but was often stumped by the leadership culture in which he worked. Most of the people on the leadership staff did not see eye to eye with him, or they didn't understand him, or prioritize his branch of ministry. 

It hurt to see someone so dedicated become so limited in his thinking, creativity, and growth. It stifled him so much that he stopped innovating. Working under such a culture of indifference really stifled his ministry into a redundancy of activities. 

It's so hard to enjoy what you do when you feel like no one is benefiting from your labor. I understand that being faithful to the calling is integral to life and yet, I know that all of us want to make sure that we are doing something of value even if it's small. 

Have you been working in such a way that you feel that your work isn't going anywhere?

If so, I want to introduce to you to a concept that I believe will help you to redesign your leadership structure so that you can run your ministry in a creative, efficient, and forward-thinking way. 

When we talk about culture, what comes to mind? In this sense, it should be fundamentally about the attitudes and behavior characteristics that a group understands and values. Leadership culture is the core mindset and belief that guides every person in the group with purpose and enables them to be responsible for their actions and results. Leadership culture holds everyone accountable to the culture and gives the people ownership of it. 

Here some ways you can tell if you leadership culture is lacking:

  • Does your work feel insignificant?
  • Are some of the team members out of sync? 
  • Is conflict avoided at all costs?
  • Does tension linger from discussions or rejections?
  • Are people fearful of making mistakes?

If you answered yes to some or all of these then there is a leadership culture problem existing in the organization. 

The reason you should engage in culture change is to willfully and actively build capability for new ways of doing things. It creates new abilities and allows for fresh ideas, processes, thinking, beliefs, tools and creativity that will result in the organizational success.

I know you know that one thing is for sure: this world is getting more complex and it demands a leadership culture that grows into the level of sophistication that will meet that demand and exceed it.  

This isn't easy. So many men and women make the mistake of thinking that they can go from doing things one way for so long and immediately turning things around. They fail when they think that they can change everything as seamlessly as night turns into day. There are real struggles but if the will is there and the faithfulness is present then it can be done with God's help.

Ok, you've made up your mind that you need to transform your leadership culture for the sake of the mission. Awesome! But where do you start? 

These steps take patience. They take careful consideration. Jesus told us that we need to consider the costs before we do anything. (Luke 14)

When you think of things that need to go, you should never think of people first. You should always consider behaviors, mindsets, beliefs, and habits. Think of the things you can't bring along with you into this remodel.

I know that when churches need to change they fail at it because they want to bring along habits that are hard to kick. You can't bring everything you have to a new place. You can't. It will make the journey more burdensome.  

This day, leadership requires teamwork and that can only excel when one structures the leadership as a collaborative unit rather than a hierarchal one. What does this mean? It means that it is far better to work in a place where leaders look to each other, side by side, rather than vertically, in terms of position (titles). 

Think of it as a sports franchise. Let's take a football team. Sure the team will have it's best players usually be their most talented ones (most of the time) but they are independent of the rest of the team. In fact, for a football team to be successful, the whole organization needs to be one cohesive unit, even if they all have vastly different levels of responsibilities. 

The owners, the coaches, the players, and the staff, all have to strive to help each other out by doing the best that they can in their own particular area. They are not independent of each other but they are interdependent of one another. That's the key. 

The star quarterback needs his linemen to block in order to function, and for his receivers to be where they are suppose to be in order to succeed, and for his coaches to call the right plays in order to thrive.

The coaches on a football team need their players to buy-in. As they do, so do you. And as those coaches only focus on coaching you need to focus on guiding everyone around you to become one team.  

The hierarchal structure of leadership doesn't function as well for organization looking to thrive. It needs to be eliminated because hierarchal leadership emphasizes titles and positions, rather than contributions. 

At many churches, the change has been met with great resistance. Operating as a collective unit demands much more than a change in the organizational chart and the introduction new ways of doing things. It requires people inside the organization to re-think their roles and importance, as well as their relationships with each other and with those they answer to.

It calls into question beliefs about trust, engagement, authority and collaboration alongside a re-ordering of the ministry strategy, needs, and the vision. It can became clear that your ministry won't gain the benefits of being a collective unit without a parallel change in the culture.

I can't speak enough on how change for the sake change is bad. It's even worse when what you'll change requires time to plan that isn't invested. To transform the leader culture of your ministry you need purposeful action. 

Remember that pastor I told you about at the beginning? He's still in the same position that he's been in for 15-years. That's great faithfulness. It's rare nowadays in an age where everyone goes in and out of ministry responsibilities because they are "me-centered." But I wonder how much more he could have accomplished if his loyalty, humbleness, and hustle were housed in a culture were he could have expanded his talents, multiplied his reach, and influenced those he worked with. 

Most ministry-place leaders don’t have “transforming organizational culture” on their list of things to do. And for those who see the need, they don’t know where to start. 

If that's you, please stay tuned as we will dive deeper into this topic. Leave me a comment on this blog, let me know what leadership styles you've seen that obstruct growth and creativity. I am eager to learn more about you as well.