Guest post: 3 Essentials for Shared Leadership

December 22, 2011 — 2 Comments

Guest blogger Gary Runn has served with Cru for over 30 years. For the past five years he and his family served in Florence, Italy where he focused on leadership development for the national ministry. He currently serves as National Director for Leadership Development of Cru City in Austin, Texas. He’s also my brother-in-law and blogs at garyrunn.wordpress.com.

We live in dynamic times regarding culture and the mission of extending God’s kingdom. New leadership paradigms and fresh learning are necessary elements in stewarding well the resources that God has entrusted to His people.

In a previous post on this blog, Ken Cochrum has argued for Shared Leadership. I think Ken is correct in his estimation of what it is going to take to lead in ever increasing complexity. Ken quotes Marshall Goldsmith in defining what is meant by shared leadership. At the heart of the definition are three key components: maximization of resources around you, empowerment of others to contribute well and opportunity for true leadership out of expertise. This is not leadership by committee. This is leadership at its highest level that can navigate the complexities and steward critical resources towards the best possible solution-all the while raising the leadership culture around them to new heights. But ultimately what a leader does will never outpace who a leader is. This style of leading requires some growing character qualities to ensure both a good environment and a good result. It requires letting go of one’s ego — the exaggerated sense of self. I will suggest three character qualities for your consideration.

Humility
For the Christ-centered leader humility is always required. But in a command and control style this can be feigned and expressed in measured doses. If a leader is aiming for a shared leadership style this is the starting point and must prove consistent day in and day out. Humility is not thinking less of yourself — it’s not thinking of yourself at all. Humility is the character trait that allows you to get out of the way so others can succeed-again, shunning any form of egotism. Humility actually lends itself to bold ideas because there is nothing personally at stake. The mission and God’s agenda are the only things at stake. Humility is what allows the leader employing this style to empower others. Humility by definition does not have to be the epicenter of power. It rightly shares power with qualified others. A right estimation of self and God is at the epicenter of humility.

Determination
The error of a command and control style of leadership is that it is extremely limiting. You are limited to the best and worst of who you are. But the potential error of a shared leadership style is a watered down, fluffy solution with no visible impact. You could end up with leadership by committee and greatly reduce impact. Determination is needed to keep God’s agenda and organizational calling in the forefront. The idea of shared leadership is to get to a better, more impactful solution through partnering efforts. But this requires a leader who can keep connected efforts on track and moving in the right direction. This is knowing when to provide accountability, correcting insight and a refocused vision.

Authenticity
This one might surprise you. But good partnership requires safe relationships. There has to be a leadership environment where divergent opinions can be freely expressed. The best way I know to create safety is if the leader demonstrates true authenticity. This means that the leader is able to admit mistakes, weaknesses, and limitations. This also means that the leader can freely encourage and praise the contributions of others. People readily follow gracious, authentic leaders. Leaders should always be conscious of the working environment around them and the development of leaders around them. An authentic leader fosters a safe, energetic collaboration environment.

Where are these traits nourished and grown? At the foot of the cross. Our constant recognition for the grace of the gospel is the soil for growing these qualities. A helpful fertilizer is regular feedback from peers, superiors and those you lead. A deadly weed is letting egotism run rampant. Shared leadership in all of its varied expressions is the way forward. Will you strive to become this type of leader?

2 responses to Guest post: 3 Essentials for Shared Leadership

  1. Thanks, Gary, this is really great stuff! I have so often seen these character qualities in you, which is why I believe you have had such a profound and lasting impact on so many of us for so long. Thanks for letting us in on how it works! 😉
    I think with today’s young people, there really is no other option for how to lead. They simply have too many other options, and enough imformation and power in their own hands to have to follow someone who does not embody these qualities. I think about the “Arab spring” movements, where there is often a lack of a clear leader, and yet people are able to effect real change because of their determination to NOT be led by power-hungry autocrats.
    How do you (Gary, Ken, anyone) think we are doing as a ministry with leading like this? Are some pockets doing better than others? Who are good role models (both within our ministry and without) we can look to who embody these qualities in our current context(s)?

  2. Steph, First, thanks for the kind words-I only hope to better emulate these qualities in my own leadership. I think you are right about the current generation of emerging followers and leaders. There is strong desire to contribute and collaborate-yet, be led into those endeavors out of clear, compelling vision. I’m curious what Ken thinks because he certainly gets a broader view of our ministry than I do. My sense is that we are growing in the area of shared leadership. I know we are placing a greater emphasis on this-as well as a greater emphasis on true spiritual leadership. I think there are variable that affect this-like cultural issues around the world, generational issues, and character issues. I do think we have some good models in the U.S. and around the world within Cru. It’s interesting in that I think you have to look at individual leaders rather than whole organizations at the moment to see good examples of this. I will say also that possibly women do this more intrinsically than men. One way to find them is to look for good young leaders and check their history to see where they came from-often there was an empowering leader in their formative years.

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