Leadership is changing — are you?


“It is no longer the time of the heroic leader — the leader who walks in and takes up all the space in the room.  The job of today’s leaders is to create space for other people — a space in which people can generate new and different ideas…”  The Changing Nature of Leadership, p. 19

That’s one of the conclusions in a report from The Center for Creative Leadership.  The bottom line:  leadership is changing and leaders that adapt to the changing times will:

  1. View leadership as a collaborative process.  The lone visionary is out, the collaborative leader who listens and empowers is in.
  2. Recognize that 21st century challenges require adaptive, not technical, changes.  Adaptive changes are systemic, and require new solutions that we may not have thought of yet.  Technical changes are improvements or adjustments to strategies we already know.  Sunday School might be a good example.  Does Sunday School need an overhaul (technical change) or is there a better strategy for teaching the Bible in the 21st century than “classes” on Sunday morning (adaptive change).
  3. Develop a new skill set for leading.  Participation, building/maintaining relationships, and change management replaces the old skill set of resourcefulness, decisiveness (“lone-ranger decision-making”) and doing whatever it takes.  
  4. Reward teamwork, collaboration, and innovation.  Collaborative, participatory teamwork emerges as the preferred strategy of the future and successful leadership will reward shared team efforts.
The CCL report is geared to secular organizations, but the same principles can apply to churches.  Typically, churches are behind the curve in understanding and incorporating new leadership strategies.  Eighty-four percent of leaders surveyed by CCL agreed that the definition of leadership has changed in the last five years.  Several months ago I wrote about “Vision: An Overblown Concept” because I thought church leadership needed to move from the “visionary leader” model to the “collaborative model” of leadership.  Looks like someone else agrees with me.  What do you think?

4 thoughts on “Leadership is changing — are you?”

  1. I recently did a leadership unit as a part of my Bible College course. In the course it touched on many of the things in your post. For me I found the course refreshing and more in line with what I had previously thought leadership should be. I never felt I fit into a leadership structure that one person set the tone and vision and everyone had to fall in behind them. The “collaborative model” of leadership always sat with me better. I am glad to see others feel this way too!

  2. A recent study by IBM found that only 14% of organizations feel very prepared to adapt. Our operating environments for businesses are changing more rapidly than ever before. If churches are similar to businesses in that they are made of people, then it is sad to consider that only 14% of churches feel very prepared to adapt. God calls for our best and if we do not learn new ways to contextualize the Gospel in the 21st Century then we will be obsolete and irrelevant more and more every day. Churches must adapt for the future!

  3. Collaboration doesn’t work when there is one ‘called’ leader surrounded by ‘lay’ leaders. In a pastoral context, the pastor must surround him or herself with those who also recognize their divine purpose and calling, regardless of their vocation. This demands equally strenuous calls to holiness and theological rigor and the recognition of their equal responsibility before God.

  4. DC — Good point. Collaboration is a conversation among equals, not top-down or clergy-driven.

    Mike — I’m surprised that 14% of businesses are prepared to adapt. Churches would fall below that level, I’m sure. Good insight.

    Dave — For more on the collaborative model, see Leadership Without Easy Answers, by Ronald Heifetz.

    Thanks for all your comments! -Chuck

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