Many pastors and Christian organizational leaders did not sign up for ministry to lead others. They heard the call of God, wanted to make a difference for His Kingdom and entered ministry. It was a shock for some to wake up one day and realize "I am a leader and I've got to lead a staff, and I don't really like doing it."

I remember when I was an independent producer. I was a staff of one with an assistant. It was convenient: one person to oversee, my schedule was my own, I could focus on things I wanted to focus on and, while my work affected others, I was not personally responsible for them.

Today, the picture is different. I have a staff of over 550 with 10 senior leaders who directly or indirectly report to me. What I do, how I spend my time, and what my priorities are all directly affect others - and my ability to lead them well. 

The transition from independent producer to the leader of a staff of various sizes was not without its bumps and its lessons because the two kinds of responsibilities are very different.

Life for an independent producer is fairly simple. Life for a leader who leads staff or a team is much more complex. A leader of others must make critical transitions in how they think and act. They must transition:

From thinking about "How I drive ministry myself" to "how I facilitate ministry through other good people." It is no longer about me as much as it is about us.

From "how I would do things" to "empowering other good people to do things as they would do them" - in line with their gifting and skills.

From "I can do life as I like to arrange it" to "I need to take into account all those on my team and how I can best serve them and help them become the best they can be."

From player to coach. The larger my staff (volunteer or paid), the more I must transition from player to coach. It is not possible for me to ignore my team. If I do, they go south attitudinally or we develop silos without alignment.

From "hands on: in the details to helping define the "big rocks" and allow others to figure out the details.

From "I can determine the plan and strategy" to "we need to determine and own a common strategy."

From "I have a meeting to go to" to "I have a meeting that I need to carefully prepare for and lead."

From "my opinion is the one that counts" to "I need to be collaborative in my thinking, and decision making." And, "I need to encourage robust dialogue around issues and take a non-defensive posture when others disagree with me."

These are not easy transitions and there is significant leadership pain and even attrition when leaders go from being solo producers to team leaders and don't understand the need to do life differently. It is not uncommon for pastors who suddenly find themselves saddled with reports and a team who have not made the transitions above to face considerable unhappiness or conflict with staff. Often they are not aware of why the conflict is occurring.

If you lead others, have you made the transition?

  • Sep 19, 2012
  • Category: News
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