In our rapidly changing world the days of the heroic, lone-ranger CEO are over. Today, teamwork is the byword in executive leadership. It’s a necessity for any ministry serious about advancing the kingdom.
A few years ago, we at Strengthening Leaders, spoke with the board vice chairman of a well-known international ministry as he was revisiting the organization’s headquarters. He, and every staff member with whom we had spoken, had acknowledged years of toxicity and dysfunction at the leadership level of that organization. It was keeping them from realizing their vision and mission.
But a new executive director who valued teamwork was now in place, and the transition to a healthy leadership and organizational culture was underway. The vice chairman now said with amazement: “It’s like a fresh breeze has blown through this place.” He saw a ministry positioned for a breakthrough resulting in more people worldwide entering the kingdom of God.
People are waiting to hear the gospel, yet executive team dysfunction, toxicity in the workplace, and marginal performance in Christian ministries often keep them from hearing the Good News and experiencing the love of Christ. Working and performing well together as an executive leadership team is critical. As the leadership team goes, so goes the organization. The leadership team informs, models, and shapes the essential components of the organizational culture.
The essential components of a healthy dynamic culture include everyday experiences, which foster shared beliefs, which in turn, influence healthy actions individually and collectively, and produce results that reflect the mission and vision of the organization.
As leaders, our job is to shape such a culture. We are called to create a compelling ministry work environment — to provide experiences that maximize the health and performance of every team member, and to mobilize people for a common purpose under a shared vision. That all begins with the executive team.
Every executive team and organization has a culture — by intent or by default. So what is your leadership culture like?
It either works for you or against you. It makes the difference between success and failure of your organization and of your people. Developing a healthy, high performing leadership culture has become an essential role of leadership and a core management competency. Neglect it at your peril. As Roger Connors and Tom Smith encourage in their excellent book Change The Culture, Change The Game (Portfolio Trade, reprint edition, 2012), we should lead and manage to foster a culture of health and high performance.
So, what can executive teams do to create this positive leadership culture?
Great executive teams develop, adhere to, and hold each other accountable to specific principles, as well as the values and behaviors supporting them. Great leadership teams are committed to a healthy peer culture and tend to:
- Maintain an environment of openness and honesty.
- Strive to improve themselves as individuals and as a team.
- Manage themselves well.
- Invite and accept constructive feedback and criticism.
- Place the organizational interest above self-interest.
- Pursue and adopt the roles of both teacher and learner.
- Stay close to stakeholders.
- Hold themselves mutually accountable.
Imagine being a member of an executive team that practices these principles, modeling these values and behaviors in a way that enhances teamwork and trust throughout the organization. You can create that sort of environment in your ministry.
Don’t wait. Start today to create a God-honoring executive teamwork culture, which gets great results! It’s “like a fresh breeze has blown through this place.” Indeed, Connors and Smith have it right, change your culture and you will change the game!
Bill Frisby is the founder and CEO of Strengthening Leaders where he helps leaders build healthy, high-performing executive teams and organizations through executive coaching and organizational consulting. Bill also serves as a CLA Leader2Leader facilitator. This post is an excerpt from the 2014 Summer edition of Outcomes Magazine.