Purpose: To help leaders realize that leading a team is a cooperative effort that doesn’t resemble top-down directives but rather grassroots collaboration.
- The leader will be able to describe the 6 key leadership principles of WOL and their application to staff leadership and organizational management.
WHY LEADERSHIP PRINCIPLES?
A few years back the Leadership Team of Word of Life developed a list of ‘leadership principles’ that they believed could serve as guideposts in what a team ‘framework’ could look like. This should not be considered an exhaustive list but simply a starting point to help you understand what our vision for field ‘teams’ should look like around the world.
A framework like the one we’re about to work through helps us to understand the leadership ‘heartbeat’ of Word of Life. It aligns our management philosophy and helps us to speak the same ‘language’ when in discussion with the home office and each other.
There are 6 Leadership Principles that we will examine together:
- The Principle of Synergy
- The Principle of Integrity
- The Principle of People Priority
- The Principle of Simplicity and Innovation
- The Principle of Investment
- The Principle of Evaluation and Reward
#1 PRINCIPLE OF SYNERGY: WHY SYNERGY?
‘Synergy’ is from the Greek word sunergos that is comprised from 2 Greek words:
‘sun’ (which means together) + ‘ergon’ (which means work)
= sunergos (working together)
Listen to this great definition of ‘synergy’: “the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.” (Oxford Dictionary)
Doesn’t that just sound like how God’s work should work (2 parts coming together for a combined effect that is greater than when they were working alone)? Imagine what would happen to Christianity around the world if all of God’s children consistently applied that principle to their efforts! In our Word of Life ministry we would describe the Principle of Synergy as finding fulfillment when we intentionally communicate and integrate our mission and priorities to ensure a unified direction.
Check out what Ephesians 4:13 says about that: “…till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
Clearly Ephesians 4:13 says that unity should be a natural by-product of our spiritual maturity. Or in other words – where you see Christians unified in Christ you see spiritual maturity in action. The opposite would be true also – where you see Christian disunity you see spiritual immaturity in action.
#1 PRINCIPLE OF SYNERGY: HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO MINISTRY DIRECTION?
The larger a ministry grows, the easier it is for each area of the ministry to become isolated and independent from one another. This is a constant danger for us at Word of Life. We are now setting ministry goals together and helping each other to reach those goals.
We can see the Principle of Synergy at work in Word of Life in these scenarios:
- Departments are looking at each other’s goals and asking “How can I help you achieve your goals?”
- Departments are looking at their divisional resources and recognize they are stewards instead of owners. Stewards take good care of what they have, but also are quick to realize resources can usually be shared.
- Departments are taking time throughout their week to pray for other areas of their ministry
#1 PRINCIPLE OF SYNERGY: QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
- If an outsider came and evaluated our ministry for a week, in what specific areas would they see ‘synergy’ and in what areas might they see ‘discord’? In what ways do you believe your team could begin to turn that around?
- What would be some ways that you as a team could work on goal sharing and make it more a part of your organizational culture?
#2 PRINCIPLE OF INTEGRITY: WHY INTEGRITY?
When we think of ‘integrity’, we think of our lives as not having mismatches – meaning, what we believe makes it’s way into our thinking and our actions. That should be the case in every area of life. But in what ways should ‘integrity’ impact our interpersonal relationships, meaning, how do we make sure what we believe from God’s Word about how we should interact with people becomes reality?
In our relationships, integrity means we treat people the way we would want to be treated. Integrity means we look for the good in people. Integrity means we don’t demonstrate favoritism. In our Word of Life ministry we would describe the ‘Principle of Integrity’ as seeing fulfillment when we foster a gracious culture of trust and authenticity in every decision and relationship.
It can go against our inclinations, but we must be committed to creating an environment that trusts first. Particularly in situations where people have let you down in the past or have given you reason to question – we must trust first and then when an opportune time comes we can drill down on the facts and arrive at Biblical conclusions. It’s all too easy for us in a fast paced ministry like WOL to not give people the benefit of the doubt – to not trust – to not treat others the way we would want to be treated.
Check out what 2 Corinthians 4:1-2 says about this: “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”
“Renouncing the hidden things of shame” and “not walking in craftiness” are Scriptural talking points we all would get behind. Yet, it is all too easy for us to be suspicious or judgmental rather than to trust one another (especially in a ministry location). Our relationships must be characterized by both grace and truth. This should apply in each other’s presence or absence. From a personal interaction perspective, this is what integrity is all about.
#2 PRINCIPLE OF INTEGRITY: HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO MINISTRY DIRECTION
We falsely believe that being men of ‘integrity’ is isolated to matters of moral purity or finances. That’s incorrect. Integrity becomes reality when we live out what we really believe. It’s a life that prevents belief not matching action. If we believe it we live. That has a significant impact on our ‘trust’ and our relationships within a ministry setting:
Instead of slanderously criticizing people we must choose to graciously confront
- Instead of employing the silent treatment we must choose to speak the truth in love
- When someone has done something professionally or personally that frustrates us, we must chose to talk to that person or chose to let it go
As the servant-leaders of our fields or areas of responsibility, we must take the lead in this area of relational integrity.
#3 PRINCIPLE OF PEOPLE PRIORITY: WHY PEOPLE PRIORITY
It’s amazing how easy it is to forget that ministry is not about activities, ministry is about people. And yet for all of us in ministry, it can be so easy to get side tracked and focused on what needs to be done and disregard the people we’re supposed to be serving. And not just the ‘end-customer’, but all the people involved in our efforts. Sometimes in our efforts to get more people to an event or see bottom line increase we run-over people to make it happen. That is not activity that honors the Lord – and that may even be activity that could fall into the category of ‘wood, hay and stubble’.
In our Word of Life ministry we believe we’re achieving the Principle of People Priority when we value and serve people by giving more than we take. Philippians 2:3-4 is a great couple of verses that hits the nail on the head: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
In the day-to-day of leadership, it is all too easy to forget that ministry is about people. Whether our staff, our supporters, or those attending our activities, they must know that we truly care for them, serving their interests, not our own.It’s important for us to remember as leaders that not everyone is wired like us – we may be able to go for weeks or months without ‘down-time’ (which is probably not wise) but not everyone is like this – nor should be expected to be like this. This doesn’t mean we become ‘soft’ in our ministries (30 hour work weeks and 8 weeks of vacation), but what it does mean is that the leader is sensitive to the people in his care and encourages them to be wise stewards of their lives/families/priorities. It’s certainly not discouraged to tell people that need to take time off, for example.
#3 PRINCIPLE OF PEOPLE PRIORITY: HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO MINISTRY DIRECTION?
How do we know when our ministry is focused on people and not solely results? By asking questions like:
- “How will this ministry effort impact our missionaries and their families? Is the event worth that toll? How can we mitigate that toll?
- “Would I be willing to do what I am asking the people on my team to do? If I would say “No”, what needs to be tweaked?”
- “Am I genuinely showing care and concern for this donor – or do I really only want their money? How am I demonstrating this care?”
- “Am I making guests feel like family when they arrive – or just a part of my program?”
#4 PRINCIPLE OF SIMPLICITY AND INNOVATION: WHY SIMPLICITY AND INNOVATION?
Have you ever found that sometimes the simplest things in life get the greatest results? We’ve all heard the sports analogies of athletes needing to get back to the ‘basics’ in order to fix a problem they have or to get over a slump. Likewise, sometimes in ministry we make things too complicated – almost to the point where it becomes ‘bloated’ and incapable of making necessary changes to stay relevant.
Do you like to be listened to? Of course you do! When was the last time you ran a great idea up to your boss only to have him scorn it and tell you to get back to work? Maybe last week? That was a joke – but seriously – everybody always feels appreciated when they have a voice, even for the ideas that don’t get implemented. So, these two ideas of ‘simplicity’ and ‘innovation’ can be incredibly important for an organization, but especially for one like Word of Life.
Toyota is a global brand that makes big money and has corporate offices around the world (not saying they’re a model for us – what’s about to follow is simply illustrative). But did you know that the average Toyota employee contributes more than 100 improvement ideas each year? That quickly adds up to millions of ideas. Certainly most of them are incremental ideas; in fact, most of them probably are not even new ideas. But while the actual ideas are important, even more important is the culture in which this spirit is nurtured.
At Word of Life, we believe the Principle of Simplicity and Innovation is happening when we leverage efficient and effective processes that empower staff to be creative and agile for maximum impact (Read Eph. 4:16, 2 Corinthians 1:12).
Creative ideas need to flow from any level of the organization to the leadership. We must also work to continually improve upon the way we do things in every area of the ministry, becoming more efficient and effective.
#4 PRINCIPLE OF SIMPLICITY AND INNOVATION: HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO MINISTRY DIRECTION?
Some questions to ask ourselves to evaluate how well this principle is currently being executed:
- Do we have formal mechanisms in place for team members to share their thoughts relating to the organization?
- Do we know what is happening around us in our culture to be able to speak with intelligence about what you should or shouldn’t be doing to better reach young people?
- Are our ministries capable of making changes quickly in order to be agile in relation to what is happening now in our culture?
- Have we asked young people what things we could be doing better to reach more young people with the gospel? If we aren’t – how could we start?
#5 PRINCIPLE OF INVESTMENT: WHY INVESTMENT?
Investing in the right things is important in life, and the truth of the matter is that over time you will always find a way to invest in the things that are really important to you in life. That is true financially, in your family, and definitely spiritually. But what about when it comes to your ministry workplace? How important is ‘investing’?
You’ve no doubt heard of the acronym ‘ROI’ which means ‘Return On Investment’; (‘ROI’ is the benefit to the investor resulting from an investment of some resource. A high ‘ROI’ means the investment gains compare favorably to investment cost). But what about ‘ROEI’: ‘Return on Employee Investment’? (or ROMI – Return On Missionary Investment…) Why would that be an important consideration for a leader?
One secular company stated that companies that take a strategic approach to ROEI see 40% lower employee turnover, 2x’s the revenue generated per employee, and 38% higher engagement. That doesn’t mean we’re pursuing the same metrics – but it is illustrative of the fact that when you make a wise investment in your team you typically get a good return on that investment.
As a ministry we believe that the Principle of Investment is occurring when we embrace everyone as a teacher and a learner and provide resources for personal
and professional development. See Philippians 3:12-13, 2 Timothy 3:17 for the principles behind this concept. In the ‘Me’ generation of the 1940’s-1980’s, learning was largely considered to be solely top down. That was unfortunate, because Biblical learning should incorporate all the ‘angles’ of the people in our lives: below us, beside us and above us. Whether he knows it or not, a 40 year old can be taught things from a 20 year old (not just the other way around).
So, as field directors and ministry leaders, we should also be investing consistently in our people to see them grow in their skills and their spiritual maturity. Back to our opening statement – investing is important – and if you’re the person being invested in you’re able to figure out pretty quickly your sense of worth or value to the organization. Obviously this is somewhat controlled by the resources that we have, but demonstrating value and worth to a missionary through investment doesn’t need to cost thousands or even hundreds of dollars.
#5 PRINCIPLE OF INVESTMENT: HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO MINISTRY DIRECTION?
You don’t have to start out ‘large’ to demonstrate value and to begin investing – it can be as simple as:
- A subscription to an online learning service
- A book
- Emailing articles relevant to an area that needs growth/strengthening
- Setting up Skype calls with a friend of the ministry who is an ‘expert’ in a particular area
- Developing a culture of collaboration with similar roles on other WOL fields
These things cost little to no money, but can be highly effective. As your budget builds or as the Lord supplies you can add in things like trips to conferences, accredited on-going education, etc.
#5 PRINCIPLE OF INVESTMENT: QUESTIONS TO ASK OURSELVES
Some questions to ask ourselves to evaluate how well this principle is currently being executed:
- Do I have my ‘finger on the pulse’ of what things my team needs an investment in?
- Would my evaluation of what my team needs be different from what my team would say? How would I know? What might a ‘mismatch’ in their assessment and my assessment be saying?
#6 PRINCIPLE OF EVALUATION AND REWARD: WHY EVALUATION AND REWARD?
This is very connected to the Principle of Investment in that we are making an investment in our team by helping them grow and rewarding them when they do. But we believed this workplace principle to be important enough that we wanted to make it it’s own.
Evaluation and reward are not new concepts – and they’re concepts that we embrace in many other areas of life:
- Your children’s report cards. The only way you can get a good idea on progress with your kids is to have some kind of measurement. And as parents, sometimes we will reward our kids for the work they have achieved.
- Fitness/personal training. Whether it’s adding 5 more pounds to your lift or 5 minutes to your run – it gives us a sense of accomplishment when we can see where we were and what we have done. And sometimes we’ll reward ourselves when we hit a milestone.
We obviously could continue the illustrations but you probably get the point: evaluation and reward can be valuable tools in life.
But when it comes to ministry, why is it that evaluation and reward are sometimes frowned upon or not treated as important? Is it because we are working ultimately for the Lord, so worldly evaluation holds little value? Is it because we’re afraid what the prognosis of an evaluated ministry may be and we don’t want to deal with those outcomes?
As a ministry, we believe the Principle of Evaluation and Reward occurs when we make fair and accurate assessments that lead to recognizing performance and celebrating progress. See Romans 13:7-8 and 2 Corinthians 8:21 for the Scriptural precedence for this.
Honest evaluation should be embraced, not feared. We need to take the time regularly to assess how we are doing and where we can improve on a ministerial and a personal level. This will help both us and our missionaries as we seek to become more effective for the sake of the Gospel.
#6 PRINCIPLE OF EVALUATION AND REWARD: QUESTIONS TO ASK OURSELVES
Some questions we can ask ourselves to evaluate how well this principle is currently being executed:
- How would our team react to the idea of formal evaluation but also formal reward? How could we help them think Biblically about the first part of that process?
- What mechanisms do we currently have in place to evaluate a person in a ministry or an area of ministry?
- What criteria could be used to effectively evaluate a missionary or field’s effectiveness?
- How would we define ‘success’ personally and organizationally? Is ‘success’ always tied to numbers? When is it, and when isn’t it?
Matching the Principles with their Defintions
Principle of SynergyIntentional communication and integration of our mission and priorities to ensure a unified direction.
Principle of IntegrityFostering a gracious culture of trust and authenticity in every decision and relationship.
Principle of People PriorityValuing and serving people by giving more than we take.
Principle of Simplicity and InnovationLeveraging efficient and effective processes that empower staff to be creative and agile for maximum impact.
Principle of InvestmentEmbracing everyone as a teacher and a learner and provide resources for personal and professional development.
Principle of Evaluation and RewardMaking fair and accurate assessments that lead to recognizing performance and celebrating progress.