All healthy leaders have learned to live under accountability. They are not free agents but individuals who have learned to follow and who welcome the accountability under which they work and lead.
Many would be leaders have not learned to follow and therefore do not deserve to be followed. Whether they are senior pastors who don’t believe they need to listen to their board, staff to their supervisor or missionaries to their team or mission leaders there are too many people who believe they are free agents in the ministry world. For many it would be a shock to actually work in the non-ministry world where standards of accountability are often far higher and where free agency is rarely tolerated.
Who we are willing to be accountable to is an important question but the necessity of accountability is not. If we work under individuals who we are unwilling to be accountable to we need to find someone for whom we can. Living with a lack of accountability is a dangerous place to live – for anyone.
Follower ship is a crucial prelude to leadership and the higher the level of leadership the more accountability there ought to be because the stakes are higher. In our organization, one of the first questions we ask about someone being considered for leadership is “have they followed well?”
The inability to follow well has its roots in a rebellious spirit and usually translates into ones follower ship of God as well as leadership. A rebellious spirit was at the root of King Saul’s character flaw which led God to anoint a new King for Israel, one who had a heart after God’s. At its core a rebellious spirit is about “going our own way” which is the classic definition of sin in Isaiah 53:6.
This is an important concept because our accountability to a board, supervisor, or leader is usually a mirror of our accountability to our heavenly father. Both require the willingness to be accountable and at times to bend our will to the will of those over us.
I have the gift of working for a highly empowering leader who allows me to play to my strengths, who is non controlling and supportive. But, he is so, because he trusts me to be sensitive to his leadership and the direction of the EFCA as a whole, and he knows that after robust dialogue either with him or the EFCA leadership team that I will always play ball – even when I personally would have done it differently. He also knows that I will never undermine him or the senior team that I am on in words, actions or attitudes. The moment I do that, I have lost my moral authority to lead under him.
With that gift, comes a huge responsibility both to my supervisor and to the One I am ultimately accountable to. Responsibility to lead my own life well since who I am spills over to others. Responsibility to bring clarity to the organization I lead since that clarity impacts everyone and everything we do. Responsibility to develop, empower and release individuals for maximum effectiveness. And, responsibility to create an ethos and culture in ReachGlobal that is healthy and productive.
Accountable leaders model a Biblical truth for everyone in the organization: We all live under authority. I choose to live under authority and my response to my earthly authority is an indication of my response to my heavenly authority. In those cases where there is a conflict between the two that is irreconcilable, one needs to find another place to work where they can be accountable with a happy heart and a clear conscience.