In 2012 the Nominating Committee of First Church submitted a recommendation to the Board of Trustees encouraging the Board to commit to developing a Leadership Development program for First Church. The goal was to provide resources to encourage participation and improve the quality of lay leadership at First Church. In response, the Board of Trustees empowered an ad hoc committee to research the topic and provide recommendations to the Board. The Leadership Development Committee spent more than a year researching this area; we researched external leadership training programs and questioned a number of congregants at First Church to determine program deficiencies and suggest ways to support leadership development most effectively.
One of the recommendations from the Leadership Development Committee: develop a Leadership
Handbook to serve as an informational resource to congregants who are serving or seeking to serve in any leadership capacity. This handbook represents the initial effort to compile such a resource. We recognize this handbook will require ongoing effort and expect this handbook to expand and change as it is used and needs become more clearly defined.
As you will see, the handbook is divided into six sections, each covering a range of leadership elements. Within each section, sub-topics are identified and links to appropriate articles and other resources are supplied. This is a work in process and some sections are not yet completed. We welcome feedback and suggestions for ways in which this handbook might be more effective (or useful) for you.
There are many definitions. The Collins English dictionary defines leadership as “the leader(s) of a party or group.” Yet true leadership is much more than that. A leader can be the CEO of an organization, or a first year employee who leads his/her team to success behind the scenes. A leader might lead through official authority and power, yet just as often great leaders lead through inspiration, persuasion and personal connections. This is particularly true for leadership in a church.
So, what is leadership? Another great definition is: “Leadership is the art of leading others to deliberately create a result that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.”
It’s not just the creation of results that makes good leadership. Good leaders are able to deliberately create results by enlisting the help of others. They empower others. They can change cultures. Good leadership is an essential key to organizational success.
• The Characteristics of a Good Leader.
Self-Awareness. Good leaders have an intimate knowledge of their inner emotional state. They know their strengths and weaknesses, know when they are working ‘in flow’ and when they are over-worked. They know themselves, their capabilities and limitations that allow them to push themselves to maximum potential.
Self-Direction. Good leaders are able to direct themselves effectively and powerfully, know how to get things done, how to organize tasks and how to avoid procrastination. They know how to generate energy for projects, how to calm themselves when angered. They can make decisions quickly when necessary, but can also slow down to consider all options on the table.
Vision. Good leaders know they are working toward a goal that is greater than themselves, as small as the success of a team, or as large as the vision of world peace. Working toward a vision is far more inspiring than working toward personal gain.
Ability to Motivate. Good leaders lead by causing people to want to help. Leaders who cultivate their own desires to help others will encourage others to wish to help.
Social Awareness. Understanding social networks and key influencers in that social network is another key part of leadership. Who in the organization has the most clout, both officially and unofficially? Who moves the hearts of the group?
As a part of our research we polled congregants about the attributes and qualities they felt were most important to a leader. You can view their responses at “Qualities of leadership”
II. Leadership in a Church
Making committee work a spiritual practice
It is important to recognize the unique challenges to leadership development in a spiritual community. Norms, values and expectations are different from what one might experience in more secular settings. A good overview of some of the issues
Developing a group covenant
Developing a group covenant articulating how you will be together is a vital element in establishing effective and enriching working relationships. A good starting place
for developing such a covenant.
The importance of rituals
The use of rituals can be helpful in creating an atmosphere conducive to collaboration and spiritual grounding of the work. A good discussion of leadership rituals.
III. Working with People
Nothing really gets done without the ability to work with others. At the same time, this can be the most frustrating and time consuming part of many leaders’ duties. Finding effective ways to inspire, motivate, empower and direct those we work with is critically important.
Empowering Others/Getting the Most out of Committees
Developing successful techniques for delegating tasks and responsibilities is crucial for getting things done. Good discussion of delegation techniques
Keys for Motivation
Leadership styles and methods of motivating others play vital roles in effective leadership.
Dealing with Difficult People
As with life, even with volunteer work, one sometimes encounters difficult people. Learning how to deal with this is important for keeping things moving forward. See article
addressing this important concern.
Many of us get involved in volunteer activities because we are passionate about something. However, the challenge of working through obstacles and managing people and resources can often lead to ‘burn-out.’ It is important to find techniques to avoid burn out for ourselves and for those with whom we work. See articles that speak to this issue.
IV. Getting the Job Done
In order to make any significant difference it is vital to focus group undertakings by writing/agreeing on clear, understandable, and obtainable goals. Agreeing on goals makes group time more productive and are essential when evaluating the final result.
The Importance of Communications
A key to success in any endeavor is effective communication. Without it, leaders will not be able to motivate and direct others. An abundance of articles on communication
Most activities within the church require group effort and entail lots of meetings. For sanity of leader as well as participants, it is important for leaders to learn how to conduct effective, efficient meetings. See a number of good resources for conducting meetings and a few that offer useful tips:
V. First Church’s Road Map
Organization…Who is who?
Requesting Staff Resources
Accessing Church Communications