Thursday, May 25, 2006

positional, position-less and demonstrated leadership

When some people think of "leadership", they think of a "leadership position." At Horizon Church we have attempted to steer away from positional leadership in favor of a more organic, demonstrated leadership. We have a lot of conversations that describe the difference between "positional leadership" and "demonstrated leadership."

If someone were to ask, "How do I become a Link Group leader at Horizon?" (Link Group is the name we give to our small groups) it would be a weird question to answer. We don't give away a "position" to someone who desires it. Its more that we watch people. We watch and wait and see if they are demonstrating leadership. If they are loving people well, making disciples, including the outsider, etc.. then we might say that they are "leading people toward Christ and Christ-likeness." At this point we acknowledge their leadership and we invite them to be one of the new leaders in the next multiplication of their small group.

So we are working against positional leadership and trying to acknowledge demonstrated leadership. We don't have a Leadership Workshop 101 which trains new leaders. We have relationships. It looks more like a mentoring then a class. It looks more like adopting a culture of leadership then acquiring the skills of leadership. And yet even in the midst of this kind of church environment, we find ourselves with positions.

We have titles like "Link Group leader." This is someone who has demonstrated leadership and has been given the responsibility of pastoring a small group. There are other people in our community who are leading well who are not Link Group leaders. They may lead in a context outside the church or they may just not have a link group of their own to facilitate just yet. Either way, "Link Group leader" is not synonymous with "leader." All Link group leaders must be leaders but not all leaders in our community are Link Group leaders. I think that means that this would qualify as a "position."

Also, we have paid staff. Some of our Link Group leaders get hired to work full-time for Horizon Church. They facilitate Sunday mornings, cast vision and generally are supposed to be leading the other Link Group leaders. So our staff are those who are "leading the Leaders." It is a paid "position."

So we find here an interesting dynamic at work. While we value "demonstrated leadership" rather than "positional leadership," that does not mean we have "position-less leadership." Our leadership model is kind of funny that way. It looks for demonstrated leadership from someone before they are given a "position" or "title." Now, that title is purely based on continued demonstrated leadership. If the demonstration of leadership ceases, then that person ceases to be a Link Group leader. We don't want to say that you are a leader because you have the title of "Link Group leader." What we want to say is that you are leading and so we will, based on that demonstration of leadership, give you this conditional title of "Link Group leader."

So you see that the way we do leadership is not "positional" but it also is not "position-less." It is not against "position" that we resist but "positional leadership."

17 Comments:

At 3:35 PM, Blogger Jeff Mount said...

"At this point we acknowledge their leadership and we invite them to be one of the new leaders in the next multiplication of their small group."

This seems a contradiction. If you acknowledge their leadership, then they don't need to be invited into anything...they already are one of the new leaders actively participating in the next multiplication of their small group.

Maybe what you mean to say is that, when you observe a person functioning as a leader, you invite them to regularly facilitate link group meetings. But that's a task, not a position. Or, you invite them to help make decisions on the church based upon the ways they are leading (read: giving) others around them.

 
At 8:11 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Jeff,
Yes the contradiction is what this whole post is about. We "acknowledge their leadership" and then we give them a title of "Link group leader." That is precisely what we invite them to. We ask them to be on a leadership team.

The point is that there is a difference between a leader and a "Link Group leader" as I have pointed out in my post. And this difference makes "Link Group leader" a title. Thus, there is a position.

I think we have tried hard to avoid positional leadership. And we have done a good job so far. But sometimes we are so scared of positional leadership that we try to impose "position-less" leadership... or at the very least language the tries to portray "position-less" leadership.

But we have never had "position-less" leadership at Horizon church. There has always, from the beginning, been the positions of "Link Group Leader" and "staff."

If we think we can have "position-less" leadership, we are fooling ourselves. If an organization has any structure at all, including organic/fluid structure, it will have positions.

I think the trick is leading authentically after one is given a title, not avoiding the title altogether and not leading from the title itself.

 
At 3:30 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Mark said:

"But we have never had "position-less" leadership at Horizon church. There has always, from the beginning, been the positions of "Link Group Leader" and "staff.""

And you go on by saying that,

"If we think we can have "position-less" leadership, we are fooling ourselves. If an organization has any structure at all, including organic/fluid structure, it will have positions."

Someone once described the difference between LG leader and Staff as one being a paid position and the other not.

I also agree the there needs to be some sort of structure and positions. With that said, do you feel Horizon is set up where we could function with just one position? LG leader?

Banks

 
At 4:48 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Banks,
I don't think it is set up like that now, but I do think we could set up a Horizon church to be "staff-less." It might look and function a little differently than OM and Towson do now, but it is definitely possible.

My hope is that those who are leaders in our church will be acknowledged as such. And that those who have "positions" or titles will not lead from those titles but rather would have those titles as a formality resulting from their demonstration of leadership.

As far as "paying" those leaders to be leaders of leaders, that is another whole topic. But I definitely think its an option for all our churches (Westminster, OM and Towson) to think through.

 
At 6:19 PM, Blogger tali said...

"Maybe what you mean to say is that, when you observe a person functioning as a leader, you invite them to regularly facilitate link group meetings. But that's a task, not a position."
-jeff

i agree with this statement. there are people leading in their link groups who have no title, mainly because there is as yet no task for them to accomplish. what would it look like if they were called facilitators instead of leaders?

 
At 10:25 AM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Tali wrote:

"i agree with this statement. there are people leading in their link groups who have no title, mainly because there is as yet no task for them to accomplish. what would it look like if they were called facilitators instead of leaders?"

Do you feel that facilitating is accomplishing something? I see it more as a task to direct dialogue and to organize discussions. As for those that are in the church, link groups, or the outsiders that are leading/discipling and not officially titled a leader; I see this as more of an accomplishment than facilitating. There is no question that there are link groups with individuals that are not necessarially LG leaders that are leading people, heck some could possibly be doing it as well as some of the LG leaders or better. I feel as a link group leader it is more important to 'Lead' than to facilitate. Most can direct, not everyone can show Love.

I remember before I became a LG leader, I was relucant or a little timid. I didn't want to the stigma or title of leader. I just wanted to connect individually with those within. I can see others possibly feeling this as well.

So the question is, if we see others leading others well, do you feel that they see facilitating as the next step? I'm kinda already thinking that they may be past that.

My thoughts.

 
At 11:20 PM, Blogger clay carver said...

Mark, that was a good entry. I'm pretty sure no one has taken a stab at writing down our view of leadership as thoroughly as you have here. Thanks.

I don't think anyone could say with a straight face that Horizon is position-less. Its just not true. As you point out, staff and link group leader are positions at Horizon. No question about it.

What we can and do say is that the position doesn't make the influence, the influence makes the position. We don't assign people to fill positions, people are affirmed as they CREATE the position by virtue of their influence.

Short hand is that we don't operate out of position, we operate out of relationship. Do you think that tends to be true?

 
At 11:36 PM, Blogger clay carver said...

Mark: At this point we acknowledge their leadership and we invite them to be one of the new leaders in the next multiplication of their small group.

Jeff: This seems a contradiction. If you acknowledge their leadership, then they don't need to be invited into anything...they already are one of the new leaders actively participating in the next multiplication of their small group.

I see what you're saying, Jeff, but I really don't think this is a contradiction. Receiving the blessing to lead is an important part of the discipleship experience. Its one thing for a person to lead. Its something different for that person to have his mentor say, "I see what you're doing and it looks like Christ to me. I'd really enjoy serving with you as we multiply this Link Group."

I think that the invitation is key. Not to do something new...they're already leading! But to be called out as a peer. A co-laborer. This process of affirmation, to confer the BLESSING of leadership, is really wonderful to be a part of.

 
At 6:18 AM, Blogger tali said...

jon - poor writing on my part. when i said:

"i agree with this statement. there are people leading in their link groups who have no title, mainly because there is as yet no task for them to accomplish. what would it look like if they were called facilitators instead of leaders?"

the "they" i was refering to are the lg leaders. perhaps i should have said "we." my bad.

my intent was to suggest that the main difference between a titled leader and an untitled one was the task of facilitation. (which was really just repeating what jeff already said)

 
At 12:12 PM, Blogger Jeff Mount said...

Tali said :
"my intent was to suggest that the main difference between a titled leader and an untitled one was the task of facilitation. (which was really just repeating what jeff already said) "

And, I'm not sure that's even really that important of a distinction. Once, when I was in a link group that had predominantly either folks currently fuctioning as leaders, or folks who had the ability and were growing into it...my distinct "task" of facilitating grew to almost nil. My "facilitation" simply was to throw out a question and then just watch everyone love on each other through discussion, trust, and giving.

 
At 2:04 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Tali said:
"my intent was to suggest that the main difference between a titled leader and an untitled one was the task of facilitation. (which was really just repeating what jeff already said)"

I don't see this as the main difference. Usually someone who is leading in a link group is given the chance to facilitate at some point, whether they have a title or not.

For me the main differences between a leader before they are acknowledged and one after they are acknowledged are as follows:
1. A title
2. An acknowlegement as a "peer" from fellow leaders
3. The ability to be a big part of the decisions-making process for the church.

This last one, to me, is where the most distinction comes into play. This is when a leader gets the privilage and responsibility given to them of guiding the direction of the church. In a sense, its when a deacon becomes and elder.

 
At 2:11 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Clay asked:
"Short hand is that we don't operate out of position, we operate out of relationship. Do you think that tends to be true?"

I hope so. If we lose this at Horizon, it will feel like we have lost part of our identity. Here is what I said in my original post:

"We don't want to say that you are a leader because you have the title of "Link Group leader." What we want to say is that you are leading and so we will, based on that demonstration of leadership, give you this conditional title of 'Link Group leader'."

And then again in my response to Banks:

"My hope is that those who are leaders in our church will be acknowledged as such. And that those who have "positions" or titles will not lead from those titles but rather would have those titles as a formality resulting from their demonstration of leadership. "

 
At 4:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, but isn't is odd that those in the position of leadership are the ones who have authority to recognize those actively being leaders and therefore make them leaders, wouldn't a more "organic" way be to simply never recognize leaders? Or to have elders as the Bible suggest?

 
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