It’s a tale of two leaders…
The first is gifted, full of energy and new ideas—ready to take on a new position. Making decisions comes easy for him, and soon things are (seemingly) humming along. The new leader is working the plan and pushing the process forward. However, within a few weeks there’s a new uneasiness around the office. Staff feel unsettled and there’s an uptick in conversations among them—behind closed doors. The new leader is confused and not sure why there’s a growing sense of dissenion among team members.
The second leader is also gifted, full of creativity and a new vision for the organization. Early on, she meets with team members to get their input, to hear and understand their calling, and to discern a vision for moving forward. This takes time and energy and patience from the new leader. But the team rallies around this slower, relational process—soon momentum builds in a new direction, and everyone is energized to play their role.
This story of two talented leaders offers a contrast that is true in many organizations, including the church. Pastors or ministry leaders move into new positions ready to fulfill their calling. After all, we’ve prepared for this moment, we’ve prayed for the Spirit to lead us, and now we have our chance. Let’s go!
Not so fast… Effective leadership is the art of accompanying others along the way. No leader is ever effective alone—we need others pulling on the oars, right alongside us. That’s why developing an accompaniment mindset is pivotal to effective leadership. Instead of following a strategic or directive approach, leaders who accompany their team members act as guides and collaborators, helping them navigate challenges and grow professionally… just as Jesus did with His disciples!
This mindset fosters an organizational culture defined by mutual trust, support, and continuous learning. And this culture, in turn, promotes higher engagement and productivity. It’s a powerful perspective that reframes leadership as a journey undertaken together, rather than a top-down destination dictated by one.
Here are a few ways to reimagine how we can build a team through accompaniment leadership…
1. Empathize with the team members. Understand their perspectives, challenges, and motivations to better navigate the journey with them.
2. Practice active listening. Make sure you truly hear and understand the thoughts, ideas, and concerns of your team members. Remain curious and ask questions related to what people feel and believe.
3. Instill a culture of trust. Be diligent to avoid triangulation in your relationships, and maintain a culture of open and authentic communication.
4. Promote continuous learning. This is a great way to inspire people and build momentum within your team.
5. Encourage ownership. Provide your team with the freedom to take responsibility for their ministry areas without micromanaging.
6. Provide constructive feedback, offered with grace. Your goal is to offer insights into the “mechanics” of what people do; it’s never about attacking who they are.
7. Be patient and persistent. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Stay committed to the accompaniment mindset, even when challenges arise. Your role as a leader is to practice tenacity in fulfilling the vision and continue to keep the collective goals before the team.
8. Model the behavior you seek. Be a living example of the values and attributes you want your team to adopt. This is so important as you live into your role. No talking about other team members unless it’s positive. Control your frustrations because they are generally more about you than anyone else. Stay connected to your spiritual practices!
9. Finally, celebrate the wins, both big and small. Taking the time to say thank you and to appreciate efforts by acknowledging achievements can motivate your team and foster a positive ministry environment. It’s never too late to reframe how you influence a team in ways that build trust, ultimately empowering everyone to live into their calling.
If you’d like explore the traction you gain with the help of a trained ministry leadership coaching-companion who will accompany you on this path, consider scheduling a free 30-minute consultation with a Vibrant Faith Coach. Just click HERE to get started.
Rev. Dr. Mark Slaughter serves as the Minister of Worship Arts at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN. In addition to his 35+ years of ministry, he received a Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary, Master of Divinity and Church Music from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Bachelor of Music from Belmont University.