Four Stages of Leadership

A favorite author and blogger of mine, Tony Morgan, wrote this yesterday:
Yesterday while I was at Christ Fellowship in Miami, I did a leadership talk for their staff team. At the end of my talk, we took some time for Q&A. One of the questions that was asked was about leadership growth. Having worked in churches of various sizes between 1,400 and over 10,000, they wanted to know how leaders change to grow with organizations. Here’s what I summarized with a little bit more detail. Some of this reflects my own experiences in the churches I’ve served. Some of it reflects the conversations with leaders in other churches.

Lead by example. This is the type of leadership that is required when a new ministry launches. During this season, the leader has to do most of the work themselves. That happens out of necessity because no one else is around. It also happens to establish a foundation for the future. “Leading by doing” gives the leader the opportunity to shape the mission, vision, values and strategy of the church. These folks may not necessarily be gifted as leaders but they are in a positional leadership role. They are the “leaders of tens.” Ministries with this style of leadership can grow to about 100 people.

Lead other people. During this season, the leader recruits other people to join the ministry team. Rather than doing all the work on their own, the leader begins to delegate tasks and responsibilities to other people. The leader still owns the responsibility for making things happen, they’re just including other people in the effort. These are the “leaders of fifties.” Ministries can grow to several hundred people with this style of leadership.

Lead other leaders. This is when a transition happens where leaders begin to empower other leaders. Instead of a hands-on role where they’re on top of all the tasks, they shift to a role where they’re really more concerned about leading, caring for and raising up other leaders. They don’t give up responsibility for the outcome, but they begin to release team building and decisions of execution to other people. These are the “leaders of hundreds.” Ministries can grow to several thousand people with this style of leadership.

Lead by vision. At some point, there are leaders who may continue to embrace functional leadership of specific areas of ministry, but their focus is really on the overall health of the church. Rather than a ministry-specific focus, they have a global perspective that encompasses every aspect of the organization. These folks are leading other leaders, but they also have influence that reaches beyond their direct reports. They are coming alongside the senior leader to champion the vision that God has given the church. These are the “leaders of thousands.” Ministries can grow to tens of thousands of people with this style of leadership.

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I think he's generally right. However, the big problem is transitioning from one form of leadership to another. In the case of our church, I've rather ineffectually tried to lead a transition from a team structure that leads other people to a team structure that leads other leaders. It's been a painful process, and while I feel the need for the shift, I've done a poor job at leading the leaders who must buy into that change. I think we're in a time of regrouping right now...recovering from past mistakes, I hope, but not sure we're all ready to make that transition as a church.

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