Team Leadership: Risks and Rewards

The Avengers got me thinking about team leadership.

In the past, church leadership emphasized a strong individual, normally a guy, with enough vision and force of character (charisma?) to attract followers.

Today, volunteers and other leaders want to be part of a team. They recognize that they have unique gifts and abilities. They want to shape the vision, own it, then be released to run with it. Some teams do it better than others. Here are some of the risks if it is done poorly and the rewards if you can do it right:

 RISKS

Too many cooks – Conflict can occur when too many people are involved. Unless there is careful coordination everyone can be taking charge. They same task could be done by 3 different people at the same time. Things could become messy.

Tangents –each want to go their own direction. There is a lack of unity. This is the classic avengers plot. With so many capable super heroes each one wants to do it their way.

Time –takes too long to make a decision. With so many opinionated leaders who feel convinced in their own mind that they are right it may seem that you will never agree on anything at first.

Take-Overs –someone hijacks the team and gets their own way. As you give other leaders power it may go to their heads and they could stage a take-over. They see you as weak because you value the opinions of others.

Why We Don’t Do This

Insecure leaders will normally shun shared leadership for fear of being out-voted, replaced, ignored, disregarded, second-guessed and ineffective. What they may not be aware of is that today capable people won’t stick around with a leader who will not allow their input.

Stanley Grenz wrote an interesting thesis considering the old star trek and new star trek (Crux Magazine March 1994). In it he explains that because culture has shifted, our approach to leadership must also adjust. Even Forbes magazine says this shared kind of leadership is what is needed today.

Culture has shifted and church leaders need to respond effectively. Instead of seeing ourselves as Moses on the mountain, we need to look at leadership teams in the New Testament and how the body of believers led by the Holy Spirit worked organically.

(Just a little advice; if you find yourself comparing yourself to Moses or Jesus in your speaking consider how you view yourself and your leadership. Maybe you are better off to consider yourself as one of the lepers, needy sick people, or one of the erratic disciples)

Risks of not Sharing Leadership 

  • Isolation– nobody gets you or appreciates what you are trying to accomplish
  • Exhaustion –no one will help you because they don’t care enough. Also you won’t share power so you have to do it alone.
  • Paranoia –since you have to show that you have all the ideas and you are right you may wonder about the loyalty of your team –since you don’t share power you have to do everything you can to stay in power
  • Lack of buy-in from other leaders. Another classic plot from the avengers is the lack of support they have for the plan until they find a common rallying point and can find a place to contribute to the effort
  • Lack of passion –People are passionate about their ideas, not yours. Unless you are able to make it as much their idea as yours they will not want it as much as you do.
  • Frustration –Another typical marvel idea is that the head leader is frustrated because all the exception people around them are doing their own thing. In this situation there is not coordinate
  • Misunderstandings –when leaders share your passion and vision there’s more chance that they will feel the same way about decisions. -Even more likely if you decided as a team. If you make decisions by yourself it’s quite possible that leaders and volunteers may
  • Conflict –is inevitable. Eventually you will end up head to head with a volunteer who opposes your ideas because they weren’t given a say. Without the input of others you will be blind to some needs and opportunities that others see clearly. Also when people feel that their opinions are not valued they will not like or appreciate you.

REWARDS

I have blessed to be part of a few dream teams in my life. There was a clear leader but his or her role was to coordinate the work not to tell us top-down how it was going to be. Our input wasn’t only accepted, it was expected. We valued the different viewpoints others brought to the planning and to the execution of the plan. We cared about each other as much as we cared about the projects that we were working on. Specifically here are some of the rewards of this team approach.

Unity –since we had hammered out decisions by finding a consensus instead of a majority vote we were all invested. There was an uncommon unity that we all felt. We highly valued each other’s contribution to planning and accomplishing our piece of the project.

Synergy –In this team it really did seem that one and one made ten! The contribution that each of us made was coordinated and effective. The outcome was so much better than if any of us had tried to do it ourselves. (This is often seen in the Avengers when they team up to take on a foe!)

Creativity –Many of us hate group projects for obvious reasons. However, done right, team leadership generates far better solutions that any of the members could come up with in isolation. Studies have shown this consistently for decades.

Productivity –When people aren’t fighting you or each other so much more is accomplished. When we coordinate there’s no wasted effort. We wrongly assume that if we do things ourselves decisions will be better and quicker. We wrongly assume it’s better to do things ourselves. Team leadership produces better results!

IMAGINE THE DIFFERENCE

I go back and forth between shared and isolated leadership. Under time pressure I resort to doing less, not communicating, and not involving others. That’s not good leadership.

At my best I have pulled the team together, drawn on their strengths, shared leadership. At the end of the project, we all felt better about the work and each other.

Team leadership isn’t easy. They are opportunities for conflict and it may seem more time consuming. Having worked both ways, and considering the culture I am convince that despite the challenges shared leadership is worth the effort.

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Ron Powell

ronpowell

Ron Powell is the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email ron.powell@vanguardcollege.com

1 Comments

  1. This is an excellent article. Well written and clear presents both the advantages and potential pitfalls. Team leadership is essential and worth it!

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