I recently received a call from a leader who served on my team at a prior church. He was a great leader and I was excited to hear he had grabbed my spot on the Lead Team. As we spoke, he said, "I had no idea the things that went on in that room. I feel like I am constantly having to push and pull for this organization. It can get really uncomfortable." I simply smiled and said, "Welcome to the big leagues."
Being a part of a church or ministry "Lead Team" can feel like a dance. At times you are to lead and lead strongly. At other times, you are to follow and follow first. The best Lead Team members have learned the art of this dance. Knowing when to lead and when to follow can be deduced from clues given by the lead pastor, your executive peers, the gravity of the situation at hand, and the morale of the ministry or organization. However, it is the ability to assess these clues and the courage to act accordingly that makes a great Lead Team member. Before you can begin this dance, there are a few foundational traits that make up a great Lead Team member.
First and foremost, a great Lead Team member is a trusted advocate. Trust is built because character, competency, passion, and work ethic inspire the staff. They're not only godly men and women but also top performers in the organization. We can be a trusted top performer and make a poor executive. The differentiation is how well we advocate for others. Advocates protect others. Advocates represent those not in the room. Advocates have the courage to speak up. As the leaders, we are trusted to be the voice for others, to push on systems that are not working for the overall whole, to garnish the best ideas and solutions from our team, giving them a voice and an opportunity to contribute. Great Lead Team members truly care for their other team members: their reputation, their overall well-being, their family, the weight they carry, the fears they tuck away, and the insecurities that threaten their leadership. A great Lead Team member is a trusted advocate.
A great Lead Team member is a trusted champion for the entire organization. In any organization bigger than 2 people, unanimous decisions are long gone. Strong leaders think (and train their teams to think) bigger than their campus, their ministry, or their personal passions. They make decisions that are in the best interest of the entire church. They are trusted by their peers and the boss to check their biases at the door, listen openly to all sides of an issue, and then make the best decision for the overall whole. And the truth is, sometimes the executive decisions we make will cost our department more, take us longer, or make us forfeit our wants in the situation; but nothing costs more than the trust we lose when we are more concerned about defending our ministry rather than championing the entire organization. The best Lead Team members are champions of the whole, not defenders of their silo.
A great Lead Team member is a trusted mediator. A great Lead Team member needs strong relational and conflict resolution skills. The ability to mediate well between misunderstandings and miscommunications, budget and time constraints, and failures and successes, protects the morale of the entire staff. A great leader takes the time to learn the way people are wired and can understand the way things are viewed from each layer of the staff, including the layer(s) above her. She has the courage and competency to navigate difficult conversations with both clarity and kindness in any direction. If our leader knows we see his point of view and our team knows we see theirs, then there is no fear in hard conversations. We are not trying to "win" anything, but we are willing to stare this down until we get the best solution. When it comes to issues or problems in an organization, a true mediator has eyes to see it, courage to speak it, competency to fix it, and the relational ability to build morale along the way and not destroy it. It does not help our leaders if they have to clean up the morale mess we made as we fixed a broken system and strategy. Systems and strategies can be fixed in a matter of hours. Morale takes months or even years.
Trusted Advocate, Champion, and Mediator. The best Lead Team members understand the importance of their role on this leadership team and understand that sometimes to fulfill that role, we must die, so the ministry...and Jesus...can win. Sometimes we lead and sometimes we follow. When understood correctly, it's a beautiful dance.
Holly is a Coach with CourageToLead. She also serves as the Executive Pastor at Embrace Church in Sioux Falls, SD. Holly previously served as Executive Pastor of Multi-SIte Ministries at Crosspoint Church in Nashville, TN; and was part of Executive Leadership Team at Potential Church in Miami, FL. She is passionate about all things Multi-site, as well as working with Executive Leadership Teams. She is married to Chris Brown, who serves as nationally syndicated radio talk show host with Dave Ramsey. They live in Franklin, TN with their three kids.