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The Gifts and Skills Required to Lead Team

I won’t bore you with the arguments of why we should lead in team, from the trinity to Adam and Eve, Moses and the Israelites, David and his mighty men, Jesus and the apostles and Paul’s missionary teams…….you should be getting the point by now!

You might agree it’s a good idea, you might even earnestly desire to have a team in place in your leadership but the skills needed to form, shape and lead a team well, and within a culture of honour is a little bit harder to work out. There are a few factors to bear in mind in how to move forward and I will try to unpack them one by one. How big? How do I choose people and by what criteria? How do you build unity and form the dream team? How do we make decisions and grow together? How do you deal with conflict when the ‘pooh hits the fan’……. oh and perhaps most importantly how do we keep the main thing the main thing?

So, let’s go to it….

How big?

I once led a national leadership team that was nearly 40 people in size and it was full of Godly and amazing individuals. But it was too big, too unwieldy and complicated to lead well, especially in making decisions. I think decision-making is the key when it comes to the size and scope of the thing you are leading. What kind of authority do you have and what kinds of decisions need to be made? In my national case, we had a lot of significant decisions to make regularly and consensus was important but often hard to arrive at. When your decisions include fiscal, legal and major direction it can be very tricky. I also led a regional leadership team numbering a similar amount and that was much easier because it was more about relational unity, prayer and really big-picture vision items….all of which are easier in larger groups.

I don’t think there is a set number in all of this, it is about wisdom. I led a training campus more recently with a staff and student population getting close to 200……our leadership team was 8 people and it was perfect.  (Note we had a separate management team for management decisions which also made things easier!)

It was also perfect because it was the right 8 people with a great balance of gifts which leads to the next point.

How do you choose the right people?

I have maximiser in my strength finders top 5 and it has helped me over the years in thinking about team formation. What that means is I am naturally motivated to let the most gifted person do the particular job at hand. If you are better than me at X why wouldn’t I ask you to do it? This is because my greatest motivation is to do the overall job well and with excellence. In this, when you are thinking about the final outcome, there is no room for competition. In any leadership team, I always need to staff my weaknesses, which means I need to know what they are and to be brutally open and honest about them.  The key contributors needed in a balanced team (from my own experience) would be someone who;

  • Can articulate vision and communicate well
  • Is a gifted administrator
  • (And/or) Has skills in managing budgets and fiscal oversight
  • Has a pastoral heart and thinks people, people, people all of the time!
  • Has a prophetic gifting, especially around seeking the word of the Lord, discernment and wisdom (You want everyone to have aspects of this but it’s helpful to have someone that will catalyze the others)
  • An evangelist or someone with an outward-focused passion.  
  • A visionary, apostolic type……and what I mean here is the type of person that thinks out of the box, embraces risk, loves challenges, thinks big and has faith for the impossible.  You only need one of these types (one is definitely enough) but without them, you are always in danger of becoming safe and plateauing. 

Unity and building the dream team….

There are no shortcuts to this and much of it is about the regularity of your meetings and what ingredients it should include. My entire leadership life has included a leadership team meeting once a week for 2-3 hours. I don’t think you need more than this but it is hard to go deep with a group with anything less. During these times we would have time for catch up (relationally) which always starts with coffee! Time to pray together, updates, vision and the future, and then ongoing organizational management and things that need attention.

I think it is important that you are friends, and so building a leadership team includes all of the aspects needed for that to work…. occasional socials, fun, dreaming, listening to one another stories, being honest about strengths and weaknesses, loving one another and cultivating a culture of honor. This last point is key and includes celebrating one another’s strengths and honoring one another’s key contributions. My teams would often have a day retreat once a quarter where there was time for prayer, dreaming and thinking strategically about the next season, and what the Lord is asking us to give attention to. Once a year we would also go on some kind of 2–3-day retreat. You might think this is wasteful but as part of a broader yearly rhythm, you will be surprised about the love within the group that eventually grows. All of this serves to align one another to the vision and direction of whatever you are leading. If you are leading with people that you love and admire, ANYTHING is possible.  

Conflict management

This is connected to the last point on building unity. It is much easier to work through conflict if you have a foundation of love, trust and honor within your team. Work hard at building that and you will be able to navigate through conflict well and healthily. Making sure that communication and honesty are high values also underpins this. I have been amazed over the years how many conflicts arise because of either a breakdown of communication or a misunderstanding of things done or said. In your team meetings, make sure you take the time to listen to one another, to make sure you have understood, and to be honest if there is reconciliation needed amongst you.  The bible is clear on the right order of challenging someone so stick to that process……most people seem to skip the first stage so make sure that it is not you! One last point here and I think it is a personal one. Amid any conflict moment, ask your ego, if is it better to defend yourself or to say sorry and ask forgiveness. I find that whatever the conflict, even if most of it is the other person’s projected problem, there will be some aspect of it that I can own and humble myself over. You would be surprised how this simple ‘ego reflection’ can disarm the most volatile situations.

Keeping the main thing remaining the main thing……

Why are you a team? For what purpose and to what end? 

I think it is important to remind one another of the answers to these questions every time that you meet, even if it’s for just a few moments. What has God asked us to do and are we doing it?  What are the faith challenges facing us and how is our faith in moving towards them? Are we moving forward, and are we multiplying (notice my choice of word here as opposed to saying ‘growth’)? Is our vision easy to articulate for all of us (meaning don’t just let the gifted communicator share vision all the time)? The main vision is also passed on by all of your team in corridors other such meetings.  They are also outworked in how our values our outworked in all devolved decision-making. Connected to this, can our staff also articulate the vision well? 

Vision and goals are meant to be measurable to some extent and by being aware of this you will act differently and think more carefully about where most of your energy is going as a team and community. Most Christians are nervous about having targets, a strategic plan, or 3-month goals etc. We shouldn’t become like a business because we are not one, however, there is no harm in asking the Lord in prayer what goals are important to Him in the season ahead!!  After all, He is particularly interested in filling the whole world with the knowledge of his glory, for that to happen it will mean intentionality in what we do and how we do it (Habb. 2:14)

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