What Kind of Leader Are You?

It’s been my experience that there are three kinds of primary leaders. When I say primary leader, I mean the person in charge, giving direction to a team or group of individuals. Most people seem to fall somewhere in between these three types of leaders.

Set it, and forget it

The “Set it and forget it” leader is someone who typically likes to set things into motion and walk away. This could be through creating a team that will carry on the work or even someone who just wants to be hands-off ad only looped in when absolutely necessary. 

One challenge is that it’s easy to focus on the “forget” part. Sometimes, things actually run amuck when you “set it and forget it.” Maybe the team needs support but doesn’t know how to ask, or perhaps the individual doesn’t have enough training or confidence to make an independent decision and needs some help. When you get stuck in the “forget” mode, it’s easy to think everything is going fine, but in reality, things could be burning to the ground, and you have no clue. 

If this is your leadership style, my encouragement is to set a time and place where you consistently check in and see how things are doing. You should also create a communication line that actually gets to you if you’re needed. You can still “set it,” but instead of forgetting it, you “think of it from time to time.” 

The Central Cog

The “central cog” leader is someone who plays a primary role within a team or organization. They make the system turn, and without them, nothing would happen. Think of a watch cog that moves the gears along. Without that central cog spinning, everything comes to a stop. This model of leadership is common in church ministry and start-up organizations. 

One of the challenges is the amount of responsibility and effort one person needs to have within the team or organization. The first problem is that so much pressure can actually be bad for an individual, which is often the cause of burnout. The second problem is outside of anyone’s control; the problem is life. What happens if your hurt, slick, or dead? What if there is an emergency with your kids and you can’t come to work. What if you’re caught in a snowstorm and can’t get to your office for youth (this happened to me).

If this is your leadership style, you need to decentralize some of your roles and responsibilities. Sometimes this is called “passing the keys,” but I call it the Aaron Bartell rule. After getting stuck in the snowstorm, I asked Aaron Bartell to have a set of keys to my church. I also made sure he knew our protocols super well, and I gave him a chance to publicly lead so that everyone would be comfortable with his leadership. Over time no one person was the central cog anymore; instead, a team of four emerged, and we even started to pass responsibilities on to a new generation of leaders.

The Maintenance Man

The “maintenance man” is exactly what it sounds like. They exist outside of the team, organization or program and are responsible for making sure things run smooth. They swap out what’s broken, support what needs to be fixed, and are consistently looking for upgrades to improve things. But they are not central to the team, organization or program. The maintenance man can change from time to time, but the machine stays consistent.

One of the challenges in this kind of leadership is that people can become tools to be used, swapped, and changed as needed. This can be a good thing in some ways, but it can swing to the negative really easily. It can be easy to lose sight of relationships and why people matter because the program’s productivity is what’s most important. 

In this leadership style, you need to double down on your relationship with your people. To know what is best needed, you need to know who your people are, what makes them tick and how to best connect them to find success. This takes time and can be very rewarding. Think of it like a good mechanic and a car, they can often hear the problem and know the solution without even lifting the hood, but they can also take it all apart and put it back together if they need to. This leadership style can lead to long-term health and success if you don’t lose sight of people.

A Bit of Everything

If we are honest at times, we are probably a bit of all of these things. I have areas of my job that I’ve left to my team to do. I’m helping drive key aspects of other programs while trying to maintain my teams and add others to their success. 

Most people have a bend within them, but the key is not to slip into the problem areas. You can’t just say, “I didn’t know what they were doing,” and you can’t drive every conversation. If your team feels like pawns on a chessboard and not partners on the team, then soon your not going to have a team. Each leadership style has its pitfalls but knowing what they are and what trips you up personally is half the battle.

Take some time this week to consider the following three questions.

  1. what kind of leader are you? ‘
  2. Where do you get tripped up the most?
  3. How can you function in the strength of your leadership style better?

I’m Bored

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been slipping on my goal of a post a week in 2022. I’ve been travelling a fair bit for work, and the time zones are starting to catch up to me (I’m going from Vancouver to Toronto and back each weekend). All that airplane time has got my brain spinning with some new ideas, but I want to jump back into an old one this week.

Part of what’s been so challenging about my current travel situation is that I’m out of rhythm. My life is a bit off. My days off are on the wrong days, I often don’t know what time it is, and I still have a ton of work to do on top of the reason for the travels. It’s forced me to think about Sabbath, rest and how I use my 5 hours of travel time on each flight.

Back in the fall of 2019, I wrote a blog titled Sabbath = Brilliance. It’s based on a podcast series and book that I love. What I love about it is that it just makes sense. The basic premise is that our brains need boredom to function correctly. We need to “turn off” our work, phones, TVs, Netflix etc. and just be bored. But what Manoush misses is that she’s really talking about is sabbath rest. God designed Sabbath to do precisely what she is talking about.

In this crazy season (for me anyway), it’s easy to fill my time with stuff to do, projects to work on or shows to catch up on. But I think I might take some time to just sit, maybe draw or read a book on my next flight. Unplug from the world a bit, let my mind wander and see where the Holy Spirit leads me.

You can read the original article here, and I strongly encourage you to check out Manoush Zomorodi other work.

Letting Go of the Pivot

I have heard a common word associated with ministry at the local church level for the last two years. That word is “pivot,” as in “we need to pivot our plans.” This has commonly been the word associated with the need to adapt and change to the challenges Covid has brought to ministry.

The problem is that I don’t recall hearing this word spoken about ministry outside of these last two years, in my previous twenty years of working in the church. 

The definition of pivot is as follows, “To pivot is to turn or rotate, like a hinge. Or a basketball player pivoting back and forth on one foot to protect the ball. When you’re not talking about a type of swivelling movement, you can use pivot to mean the one central thing that something depends upon.”

When I think of a pivot, I immediately think of someone making a hard stop and moving in the opposite direction. But for me, the emphasis is on the hard stop. It implies a stop of momentum, and as a result, everything jerks awkwardly to a halt. I’ve just seen so many youth kids play basketball over the years that I can picture the hard stop, swivel and then attempt to gain momentum again for the pass.

When we think about Covid and the last two years of ministry for many of you, the change of plans was a hard stop, and maybe it was also a bit awkward. Those first few adjustments might have felt like a pivot, and I think that’s okay. However, we repeatedly used the word pivot, and I kept hearing story after story of people being exhausted by ministry. The hard stop was draining people. But there was another word that I think works better than any I heard during Covid; that word is flexibility. 

The definition of flexibility is as follows “Flexibility is the ability to bend or stretch. Lots of things can have flexibility. Pipe cleaners are designed for flexibility. A piece of software can boast flexibility when it can be used in different ways by different people.”

I think it’s time to let go of the pivot and bring back flexibility to our ministries. For me, ministry should always have been flexible. The pivot, from my perspective, was not needed because what we were doing already should have been able to bend and stretch to meet the challenges of our world.

The pivot was born out of the reality that our ministry systems, structures, and vision were ridged and maybe even a bit formulaic. So when Covid showed up, it was like a shock to the system because the formula no longer worked. We made a hard stop to try and adjust and lost momentum in the process. 

The challenge (and a blog for another day) is that I don’t think we can ever go back. I think we need a leaner, more flexible approach to ministry. Let me be clear I’m not talking about theology or doctrine. I’m talking about the system, structures and vision of why we do what we do. 

I used to ask my youth leaders what we would do if the Holy Spirit moved and 25 new students showed up to our 50 student program on a Tuesday night? Or what would we do if we dubbed essentially overnight? The questions though simple, forced us to think about how we structured our program. It challenged us to reevaluate how we welcomed people, introduced new kids into small groups, and shifted our leadership towards a team model. But I didn’t just ask these questions once. I asked them every 4-6 months. They were a consistent part of our leadership discussions because I never wanted us to get ridged; I wanted to stay flexible. 

  • What if your ministry exploded this next year? 
  • What if 50% of your volunteers just don’t come back? 
  • What if your venue got flooded?
  • What if all your tech just stopped working?
  • What if the Pastor’s flight got cancelled, and they wouldn’t be back for service?
  • What if 20 people wanted to get baptized?
  • What if…

Maybe it’s time to kill the pivot and usher in the age of flexibility.