Leadership and Relationships

Leadership never happens in a vacuum. We lead people, which means we have to have a relationship with them. Building these relationships is like building capital we can draw on when we want to challenge people to move forward in some new ways. If we don’t take the time to make these connections, any changes we institute will be short-lived and will certainly not last beyond our tenure. The force for human togetherness is a powerful one, and leaders ignore it at their peril. In a larger church or organization, we must be well-connected to key players, and find ways to communicate with everyone (preachers, of course, have the pulpit).

At the same time, the leader is not just one of the gang, and has to be prepared to step apart from the group. Leaders have to be able to deal with the anxiety this can produce. We all want to be accepted, and it is lonely to move apart in this way. Ronald Heifetz describes this as the “view from the balcony,” getting above the fray enough to have a wider perspective.

Finding the balance between connecting with people and stepping ahead of them to lead is the ongoing dance of leadership.

1 replies on “Leadership and Relationships

  • IGalindo

    One interesting wrinkle on this issue is the phenomenon that the relationship(s) we think have with our congregation or organization’s members may not be the same as the ones they think or experience with us. This can happen in many ways, including episodes of “projection” one either party. The ones that come to mind for me are those where I was surprised at the relationship and connection people in the congregation seemed to have with me that was disconnected with the one I perceived I had with them. I took it as one of those instancies of people relating to or projecting something on me mostly by virtue of the position I occupied in the system. In other words, it “wasn’t about me.”

    This came out in spades after I left one congregation and would go back for an occassional visit. People I’d never talked to in the time I was there would rush up to me with blustery hugs, saying how much they missed me, and starting to catch me up on their lives—which was unsettling since from my point of view I didn’t know these people from Adam. It always felt like showing up on stage in a middle of a play and having to catch up and play your part. This would happen over and over again.

    Working on developing relationships, staying connected, and maintaining the distance required of the “dance of leadership” is important. But it’s more art than science, I suspect. And the vagaries of perceptions and how people desire, or can or cannot get or give from their relationship of their leaders may have more influence on some relationships than is within out capacity to understand or address.


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