Your leadership style — how you make decisions, connect with and influence others, delegate, handle conflict, cast vision — is shaped by many factors. Your family history and work experience, along with your personality and internal wiring, impact how you think about and “do” leadership today. Leaders we have worked with, for better or worse, also influence us along with leaders we watch from afar.
Early in my career, I thought a great leader was defined by their ability to encourage, support, and connect on a personal level. These are great characteristics for a leader to have. During one particular project, however, I was so focused on maintaining a positive relationship with a team member, I failed to confront a lack of execution that led to a significant failure on a very public project. My relational leadership style didn’t serve me or my team well that day.
Do any of these leaders sound familiar to you?
- A leader with a commanding style who naturally sets clear goals and has high expectations, but struggles to understand the uncertainty and caution many new hires wrestle with.
- A leader who feels most comfortable in a coaching relationship and thrives in one-on-one settings, but struggles to take control of the reins of the whole team or organization during a time of significant transition or crisis.
- A tirelessly optimistic leader who is always encouraging and pumping in hope, but fails to openly acknowledge the real concerns and fear building up as small group numbers decline and the church struggles to identify new group leaders.
Leadership is inherently challenging because it requires you to serve the people you are leading.
And people are complicated. No two people see the world the same way and no two decisions, circumstances, or organizations are exactly the same. To influence, motivate, and guide diverse people—to lead them—you have to intentionally develop the way you lead. Only at that point will you be able to meet the diverse and evolving needs right in front of you.
Average leaders know what their leadership style is.
Good leaders know when their leadership style works best.
Great leaders develop the ability to adapt their style to face reality.
As a leader, you have to learn to meet the challenges you see, not the challenges you want to solve.
Leadership is always contextual. Who you are leading, where you are going, and what you need to do to get there should always influence how you lead. Leadership style matters. Not every problem is a nail so the hammer you are accustomed to wielding won’t get the job done.
Every leader wants to be at their best. In the church, we want to honor God, serve and love our people well, and make a difference in the community we live in. And in case you are tempted to shrug off thinking about how you lead, let me just say this:
Investing in your own leadership isn’t a selfish act or a waste of time — it’s an essential step in helping your team and your church thrive. Start by asking yourself a few questions:
- How would you describe your leadership style today?
- How has that changed over time?
- What does it look like when you are leading at your best?
- Based on the current reality, what kind of leader does your team need right now?
The best way to become the leader you want to be is to clarify your vision for what kind of leadership your people need.
When you are honest about how things are today, it is easier to create a picture of what you want things to be like in the future. With a vision of where you want to go, figuring out how to get there is simpler. But if you ignore or dismiss the notion of leadership style and leadership development, you give up any hope of intentionally growing into the leaders God wants us to become.
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