Leadership isn’t about power or position, it’s about relational equity. And this doesn’t just go from the top down it should also go from the bottom up. It’s about having mutual respect. Working at the church typically means having the pastor as our boss or leader, and many of us would like to have the ear of our pastor when it comes to ideas etc. So how can we help influence that process? Luke McElroy had the opportunity to chat with Phil Bowdle, Creative Arts Pastor at Westridge Church in Atlanta, GA about this subject of Leading Up. Below is the summary of that conversation and the 4 things to remember as you seek to influence your pastor or boss and to Lead Up.
Lead Up By Having Empathy.
Ask the question to your pastor, “How can I help you?” Those 5 words can go a long way in showing your pastor that you understand the position they are in and the great responsibility that has been placed on them to lead a church. By acknowledging their position and having empathy for the burdens they have can go a long way in creating influence with your pastor and garnering their respect.
Lead Up By Asking Questions.
It goes like this, the pastor has an idea and then looks to the team to give suggestions. However, to lead up we need to listen and ask questions and be the voice of clarity and direction. That means we need to be great listeners first. Here are some “clarifying” questions we should have ready to ask.
- Who is our target audience? Who are we trying to reach? ie….are we trying to reach the student or the student’s parents?
- What is the problem we are trying to solve? Typically when leadership gives us a directive they have a problem they are trying to solve and we need to understand what is in their head.
- What is the win? This question should be asked not just the “win” for the church but also for the person we are trying to reach. This is typically something that is overlooked so asking this question is important.
Lead Up By Being Proactive.
This point can be looked at in many different ways but for our community it typically means curation of ideas. One thing pastors don’t have a lot of…..time. So by being ready to pitch your ideas you have taking a big step in leading up. This means make it part of your weekly routine to curate ideas using Instagram, Pinterest, Evernote or whatever note-taking app you have at your disposal. By doing this you will have a plethora of ideas, at your disposal at can be BRILLIANT at a moment’s notice.
Lead Up By Being a Great Follower.
This one can be hard. We all have opinions but learning what your pastor values and following their lead can go a long way in building influence. For example, if authenticity is most important to your pastor then make sure that becomes important to you when creating and making decisions. Additionally, make sure you have a good grasp on how leadership processes ideas. Do they need some time to process the idea or do they immediately like to talk it out. Either way following their lead will go a long way in building influence.
That said, what about the difficult leader? If you have a difficult leader the best way to deal with that is to use the situation as a teaching tool. It can be as simple as showing you how “not to” lead. It can also be an opportunity for you to instill trust in leadership. By following well you may be able to influence leadership and help them shift to a better working relationship.
Lastly, with all this talk of Leading Up there are times when you have a boss or leadership that overlooks your contribution whether intentional or unintentional. You could be applying each of the 4 suggestions above but the results are less than desirable. If this is the case for you then here are a couple of suggestions that can help you move forward.
- Find an outlet, something you can build (within your job). This could be an area within your job that may seem small now but you are able to nurture and grow it into something that becomes a necessary asset for your church.
- If you can’t get behind the value or mission then prayer can become a powerful force. This will give you the opportunity to have a conversation with God about what is next and sometimes that means just getting out of the way. Obviously there could be a couple of outcomes whether it means other doors being opened for you or it could be a decision for you to align yourself behind the values of the pastor.
Whatever the situation, be ready and willing to listen.
The old communication playbook no longer works. What worked before isn’t working anymore. It’s time to rethink communication and leverage the greatest opportunities we’ve ever had to communicate in the church.
In Rethink Communication, Phil Bowdle walks through the new reality for what attendance, engagement, and attention look like for the church. Then he offers a practical communication playbook you can use to communicate anything in your church—and actually connect. These practical tips and proven strategies will work regardless of size, staff, or budget.