Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Would groups be better off without a defined leader?

You hear sometimes about "leaderless organizations." I'm not buying it. Oh, I agree that there are leaderless organizations! I just don't buy that they are going anywhere, or that this is what we want. Everything rises and falls with leadership.

There is much being written these days about collaboration and teamwork. Truly, there is nothing more exciting than seeing a group of people come together to accomplish something extraordinary. But make no mistake. There are no great teams out there without great point guards, quarterbacks, coaches or captains. Leadership is to a group what a spark is to a flame.

One of my earliest memories helped me define leadership. The little Alaskan church I attended as a boy called a new pastor after a protracted vacancy. The church lacked morale and momentum. We were occupying a half-finished church building, having run out of funds to complete the project. The surroundings were crude – floors without carpets, unfinished walls, rudimentary furnishings. Our numbers were small. But the first action of the new pastor put in motion a virtuous cycle. He removed the makeshift communion table (a flimsy garage sale castoff) from the front of the church and raised money for a solid, wooden one. It was a symbolic act, but a powerful one. As a boy looking on, this made quite an impression on me. It was a microcosm of leadership. He saw what needed to be done and he did what needed to be done.

CTK takes a different approach to leadership in a couple respects. First, we see the role as more important than most. Second, we see the personality as less important than most. So we differ, not in regard to leadership's importance, but its implementation. We want to be a leaderful organization. We just don't want to be leader-dependent or leader-focused.

There is no question that leaders are sometimes self-absorbed, domineering jerks. But in an effort to avoid that distasteful possibility, we don't want to throw out the baby with the bath water. We still need leaders. They just have to be humble, servant leaders instead of pompous, selfish ones.

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