There is a principle about teams and leadership that is often overlooked and frequently violated. Simply stated, the senior team that we serve on is our most important team and is the team of our first allegiance.
For those of us who serve on a team and lead a team this is an important distinction. The senior team I currently serve on is the senior team of a denomination. The team I lead is the senior team of the global ministries of the denomination. Which of these teams demands my highest loyalty? The senior team I serve on or the team I lead?
It is always the senior team that I serve on, which in this case, is the senior denominational team.
Why? Because the global ministry team I lead is under the organizational authority of the senior team I serve on. Thus the senior team requires my highest loyalty. That means that while I lead a team, everything I do with 'my' team is always in alignment with the senior team. I am first a spokesman for the senior team rather than first being an advocate for the team I lead.
Understanding and living out this principle prevents conflicts between the two teams and ensures organizational alignment because my loyalty to the senior team ensures that I lead 'my' team from the perspective of the senior team. In my leadership of the global team, I am first and foremost a spokesperson for the senior denominational team. As such I will never allow the team I lead to develop an 'us/them' mentality with the senior team, nor will I ever criticize the decisions or direction of the senior denominational team (I helped make them). Remember, I am first and foremost a spokesperson for the senior team on which I serve.
Some leaders push back on this position thinking that it limits their ability to have robust discussion on their team or to deal with issues that affect their team. Not so. The issue is where I deal with the issues. On the senior team, I have all the opportunity in the world to deal with issues that potentially impact my team. But that is the correct place for me to air them. Once I leave that room, I am a spokesperson for any decisions made there. With the team I lead, I have an obligation to explain, support, defend and finesse those decisions so that those I lead can understand and work within the parameters of decisions made above our team. Not do to so is to create deadly divisions within the organization that hurt the organization and its ministry, and negatively impacts its missional effectiveness. If we cannot follow well, we cannot lead well.
Lets apply this to the church. In most churches, the senior pastor is on the leadership board of the church. This would be his or her senior team which would demand their highest loyalty. They would typically then lead a staff team. If they understand this principle, they would never take a position with their staff against direction or policies of the board. To do so is to engage in 'leadership default' with a resulting us/them mentality and to have violated their fist loyalty and responsibility.
At the same time, those staff members who serve on the senior pastor's team must realize that this is their senior team and they cannot allow the teams they lead to be at odds with the senior staff team. As leaders they are always first and foremost spokespersons for that senior staff team rather than being 'advocates' for the team they lead. Not only is this good leadership but it prevents an us/them mentality which is all to common in the church and ministry organizations.
The neglect of this principle causes no end of conflict between boards and senior staff or between senior staff teams and lower level ministry teams in a church or organization. It is an authority issue, an alignment issue and a leadership issue. This does not mean that there is not healthy, robust discussion on any team. What it does mean is that the team leader will not default in his or her leadership by allowing their team to be out of alignment with the senior team they are on (the team above).