I’m working on a new long-term project with a ministry friend of mine. For all intents and purposes, we are equals in this project. We have different gifts and strengths that make us a good team. However, those differing traits mean that we work very differently at times.
We met today to discuss the project and I had to share my honest thoughts with this person…about myself. I let her know that, as we work on this project, we will get to know each others style of leadership very well. I shared with her a couple reflections about myself:
- I am action oriented (i.e. impatient). That means, at times, I forgo the collaborative process and move forward without talking through the decision first, especially under time constraints.
- I have a strong personality at times in my ministry. That means, I can influence others to see something my way (for better or worse).
So I was totally honest with her. In the last two days, I failed to consult her on two items about this project that were important. I apologized (and, unfortunately, it won’t be the last time that I apologize, but I’m a work in progress). Then I asked her for a favor: “I need you to call me out when I forgo the collaborative process. I need you to confront me when I do something wrong.”
Here’s what I learned about leadership in this situation:
- I need people in my life who will tell me the truth, even if I don’t like to hear it. I need people who feel comfortable to confront me in a loving and pastoral way. I don’t need people who will do absolutely everything I tell them to do without question. Sometimes, questioning the process is the best way to make the process better.
- I need to tell people that I am open to that feedback and confrontation. I did that today. I know I won’t always like what they have to say, but I need to be open to it. And those I work with need to be comfortable doing sharing those thoughts we me.
- I need to react in a positive way when I am confronted the first time (and the second time and third and fourth and…). My reaction sets the tone for how people will respond and work with me in the future. If I respond negatively, then that person is not likely to confront or challenge me again. If I act positively, then the chances are that our working relationship will grow stronger and we will be a great team. This is not about putting on a show or a face. It’s about my attitude towards the confrontation.
It takes a secure and humble leader to be open to criticism. As ministry leaders, we all should strive for this. It won’t be easy, however, to be a successful leader, we must embrace it.