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Leadership
With my new boss, nearly every day, I would stop by his desk and chat for a few minutes. I would see this set of foam blocks that were multicolored and had some words on it.

Leadership: Empower, Motivate to Carry Out Vision, As If It Is Own

How can a church tech leader empower volunteers to achieve a common mission, while allowing them to have ownership?

What defines a good leader?

A vision executed by a leader in perfect form will naturally, like a river, guide the team to the end goal.

If you ask ten people, you are likely to get ten different answers. One might say a good leader is someone with vision. Another might say that a leader is someone that is determined.

As people get a little deeper, the conversation might start to point toward less superficial things and toward internal desires. They might see a leader as someone that cares for them and has their best interest at heart.

These are all great attributes of a leader, but they don’t encompass the notion of a good leader entirely.

Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher, said, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

A leader empowers and motivates people to carry out a vision, as if it is their own. The leader may have vision, determination, empathy, or any other descriptor that one might have, but if they cannot motivate and empower, then they are missing the mark.

See, I am young. Probably too young to be considered a leader to many. I am however, not young compared to what I thought was young, when I was in my early 20s.

The older I get, though, the more I realize just how much there is to learn and how young I am. John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” In that way, I believe that even when I am 60, I will still feel that I have much to learn.

I used to think leadership was something I had to be older to do. I used to (and still do) look at people I view as leaders and continually analyze what they do, and how they come to the decisions that they make.

I never thought of myself as a leader or really was sure what that would look like for me.  That was until I worked at an organization, where I was given the freedom and the trust to be empowered as a leader.

I designed AV for an organization that was going through a major transition. My job was in flux and within my first few months, I had been transitioned to my third manager. With my new boss, nearly every day, I would stop by his desk and chat for a few minutes. I would see this set of foam blocks that were multicolored and had some words on it. In proper order they said:

  • Show Me You Care
  • Give Me Details
  • Involve Me
  • Be Brief, Be Bright, Be Gone

Loosely, what these blocks represent is how you define your leadership style. My boss was a “show me you care”-type of leader. He wanted to know your heart was in the right place and your intentions were properly motivated. Outside of that he would dig for details, but didn’t have a ton of time to be involved. He was a relationally-focused leader and because he knew I cared, he gave me a lot of slack to do what I felt was best for the position. He trusted me to make decisions, and I would only update him to make sure my direction aligned with his, and ultimately the company.

Holistically speaking, his actions empowered me to succeed in a way that made me believe I was achieving success on my own.  

Leaders in church tech have a much different set of issues than in a standard 9-to-5 organization. Many of the people under your leadership are not paid staff, have varying levels of ability, and also have jobs/lives outside of their time with you. How can a church tech leader empower volunteers to achieve a common mission, while allowing them to have ownership?

Luckily, we already have a common goal... To make much of Jesus.

Outside of that, the goals fall to the direction in how to best accomplish this. As a leader, you need a direction, but this is the spot in which you can empower your team.

A vision executed by a leader in perfect form will naturally, like a river, guide the team to the end goal.

Motivation

The leader may have vision, determination, empathy, or any other descriptor that one might have, but if they cannot motivate and empower, then they are missing the mark.

Your understanding of the goal will allow them to act within the constraints that you have set to execute with meaning and ownership.

While this is easy to type, this is not always easy to actualize. There is a great deal of day-to-day minutiae that must be navigated, as well as the ability to step back and look at the overall picture, to make sure everything is still in line.

Don’t be afraid to take a step back and look at your direction and make any adjustments necessary to stay in line with the overall goal.

In addition, I believe this requires a good understanding of your team. This takes getting to know them.

Find out about their job and ask them about themselves.

People like to talk about themselves, and these conversations give you not only a better understanding, but potentially a friendship. These conversations also give you insight into which situations or which unique ability that person needs to strategically place them into positions for success.

To help your team navigate your vision, you need to also know the roadblocks they face. A great book that I have read speaks about the manufacturing process and how to reduce bottlenecks in a flow. They speak of the importance of constantly identifying a bottleneck, and fixing it. Paraphrased, any process improvement before a bottleneck, only makes the bottleneck worse, and any process improvement after the bottleneck, only helps what can come through the bottleneck.

Applying this same logic to church tech, identify the roadblocks that your volunteers are experiencing in the process of executing your goal, remove them and reanalyze. This is a continual process, but it will allow your volunteers to continue to move forward without contention.

I now work for a different company that also believes in trust, and a manager that is a “be brief, be bright, be gone”-type of leader. Both my previous and current boss had very different styles of leadership, but they both make me believe that I have accomplished a great deal on my own. They have constantly looked for roadblocks, and created a path and vision, in which I was able to execute.

As Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield said, “Ultimately, leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It's about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high, and the consequences really matter. It is about laying the groundwork for others' success, and then standing back and letting them shine.”

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