The defining perspective of much contemporary leadership strategy is that “leadership” is a noun.
What does that mean?
Simply that leadership is a thing, a quality, or a person. The latter definition is important – all too often, we focus on the person of the leader, which serves to equate leadership with power. So, the leader’s job is to acquire as much power as possible in order to accomplish his or her (hopefully good) ends.
A church where leadership is a noun almost inevitable has a toxic culture. It will tend to burn out staff and burn through volunteers.
In practice, we have two choices when we define leadership as a noun:
1. Exercise power to coerce
2. Seek authority to please
Both are bad choices.
Power, authority, and leadership are not the same things.
Power is taken.
Authority is granted.
Leadership is exercised
A leader using power relies on punishment and consequences. This often produces a short-term result but in the long run results in a church ruled by fear, resentment, and jockeying for prestige and influence. Such a pastor demands that the people “buy in” to his vision.
A leader using authority relies on her ability to deliver what people desire. Authority is all about understanding and meeting the expectations of people. The problem is that people never authorize leaders to do things that will cause pain or discomfort. If you are using authority, the best you can hope to be is a competent manager, not a leader.
You may excel at meeting expectations. But if all you are doing is meeting expectations you are not exercising leadership.
Contrast the ways of power and authority with the way of leadership.
A pastor who relies on power is illegitimate.
A pastor who relies only on authority can never lead change.
You want to be a pastor who relies on spiritual leadership.
Only a leader is able to pastor a transforming church. Transforming leadership goes far deeper and requires more of both leaders and followers. Transforming leaders are willing to surface competing values, engage the problems behind the “problems”, embrace conflict, focus on mission not personalities, and build teams around strengths instead of politics.
Such pastoral leaders build church cultures where members and guests alike can experience the fulfillment of their God-given desires to belong, to contribute, and to make a difference.