10 Questions about the Dance of Leadership
The first day of the Vibrant Faith Summit focuses on Adaptive Leadership. Here is a preview of some of the topics we’ll cover.
How we understand leadership greatly impacts how we exercise it. Building on John Maxwell’ s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, James Kouzes and Barry Posner’s book, The Truth About Leadership, and what Vibrant Faith has learned about leadership through hundreds of coaching relationships, we base our assumptions about the dance of adaptive leadership in everyday settings through the lens of these ten powerful questions.
- Are you willing to get on the dance floor? Leadership begins once you believe you can make a difference and you choose to be a person of influence. Leadership is less about one’s position and more about choosing words and actions that influence other people’s assumptions, attitudes and actions.
- Do you dance with a sense of abandon? There’s no commitment and conviction without heart. There’s no trust and support without heart. Leaders pour their hearts into organizations they serve by paying attention to people, sharing success stories, and making people feel important and special. You can’t lead well if you don’t love what you do.
- Do you envision and signal your future steps? Transformational leaders imagine and articulate future possibilities that are aligned with God’s intentions. As stewards of the vision and custodians of the future, leaders ask, “What’s new? What’s next? What’s going to happen after the current project is completed?” Leaders peer into the future, and invite others into the process, imagining what’s over the horizon as they move toward a new and compelling future. Looking forward is a defining quality that differentiates leaders from individual contributors or managers.
- Do you seek new dance partners? Leadership is a shared responsibility. They ask for help and align others around a common cause. They enable others to think bigger, broader and bolder. Leaders raise up new leaders and grow great teams by bringing out God’s best in the people they encounter.
- Do you experiment with new dance steps? Transformational leaders call forth possibilities that move people beyond their comfort zones, challenge people’s assumptions and lead to great achievements. Adaptive leaders willingly test themselves and others, exhibiting a dogged determination to achieve a preferred future for themselves and their organization. They guide people through uncertainty, hardship, disruption, transformation and transition. They inspire ordinary people to do extraordinary things as they deal with adversity, difficulty, change, and challenge. They embrace challenges, take charge of change, and help leaders fail faster so that they can succeed sooner.
- Do you view leadership mastery as a lifelong dance? Adaptive leaders strive to be better tomorrow than they are today. They develop systems to learn from past successes and failures. They develop rituals and routines to build on their strengths, increase their knowledge and improve their skills. They create space for trying new approaches and are always seeking a “better way.”
- Do you build trust among their dance partners? Trust is the social glue that holds individuals and groups together. It’s essential for getting things done. The level of trust others have in you will determine the amount of influence you have on others. People need to know that you’re committed to their wellbeing. They need to know that you will do what’s best to fulfilling the church’s mission. They must have confidence in your character and view you as a person of integrity. They must have confidence in your competence – that you have the knowledge, skills, and determination to deliver what you promise. Only when a leader is deeply trusted can he or she expect people to follow them into uncharted territories.
- Do you invest in, serve and sacrifice for your dance partners? Servant leaders do what’s best for the mission and for the teams they oversee. Great leaders sacrifice for the sake of serving a cause greater than themselves. They “do whatever it takes” to get the job done. They persist when others might give up. Leadership is not for the meek or mild-mannered.
- Do you know your strengths and build on them? In his book, Strengthsfinder 2.0, author Tom Rath states, “You cannot be anything you want to be—but you can be a lot more of who you already are. . . the most successful people start with dominant talent—and then add skills, knowledge, and practice to the mix. When they do this, the raw talent serves as a multiplier.” People have much more potential for growth when they invest time and energy into developing their strengths instead of correcting their deficiencies.
- Do you readily adapt to new partners, new dance steps, and new dance floors? In their book, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership, Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky suggest that leaders avoid finding the best-known or most-available fix to a problem and focus their efforts, instead, on adapting to the changing environment. Their task is to see, understand and face the existing reality through new eyes and novel approaches. Andy Stanley reminds us to remain steadfast to our mission and values yet be fluid and flexible when it relates to our methods and models. Apple CEO Tim Cook suggests that, “leaders find their North Star and then be willing to question everything else.” As leaders, we need to develop our problem-defining and problem-solving capacities to address our current missional challenges without resorting to what’s worked in the past.
What does the leadership dance look like in your setting? Which questions guide you toward being an adaptive leader?
For more on adaptive leadership, join the Vibrant Faith Summit April 25-27 in Minnesota, or sponsor the summit in your own area.