Leadership in Leading Small Groups
Dear brothers and sister, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. 1 Thessalonians 5: 12-13
It’s safe to assume that every person has led a group, or has been under the leadership of someone else. Simply stated, the only requirement necessary for leading is to have followers. While directing and controlling others are hallmarks of leadership, the pressing question is how does a leader provide inspiration for others to follow?
Whether a leader’s skills are inherent or learned, the function of leading involves a combination of four components: managing the required tasks, shepherding the group, fostering a spirit of stewardship, and, finally, inspiring others through leadership.
Management - getting the job done
The first component in leading groups is management. In order to be successful the leader must accomplish the tasks necessary to get job done. While the leader must grasp the basic logistical and technical details associated with the task, he does not have to possess total knowledge of all details. He must, however, possess an understanding of the general process and comprehend how all the task’s elements come together. While preparing a leader might ask: how do I organize my people? Do we have a plan? Do we have all the necessary things to accomplish the task?
Stewardship – resource utilization, people preparation, trust, vision, training successor
While basic leadership is about overseeing the completion of necessary tasks in an efficient fashion, adding the element of stewardship causes the leader to look beyond him and understand how the group's actions fit into a greater cause. A steward leader is one who exercises responsible care over allocated resources (time, talent, and treasure). The good steward develops and effectively conveys a vision to his group and develops his subordinates for success now and in the future. A steward leader might ask: How much authority am I willing to delegate? Do the folks around me trust me based on my words being consistent with my actions?
Shepherding – knowing the flock
The third component found in leadership is shepherding the group. The shepherd, while watching his flock, takes a personal interest in the life of each member. The shepherd understands that his example is seen and evaluated by all, and his actions and conduct must be above reproach. He knows the strengths and weaknesses of his team members. By knowing and leading his people, the Shepherd can respectfully assist with life challenges among his members – when appropriate he reaches out in Christian love to others. A shepherd leader might ask: Do I really know my team? Do I connect with the team? Do I take a personal interest in each team member?
Leading (manipulation versus inspiration) – answers the question of: “why” should I follow you?
The final component found in leadership is “leading.” At the heart of leading is the leader’s ability to inspire others while accomplishing tasks. Easy and safe tasks will likely result in the follower heeding the leader’s direction; however, challenging and risky circumstances may require the leader to convince the follower to complete something that he has no desire to do. Inspiring others to follow requires the leader to portray an understandable vision of success, and this must be accompanied by a plan for action. In addition to a vision and plan, the inspiring leader must convey values that are commonly understood and accepted by the group – conveying the purpose answers the question of “why” anyone should feel moved to follow the leader. A leader might ask: do I present a genuine and believable example to others? Are my beliefs consistent with my words and actions? Are my beliefs and motives consistent with my team?
In conclusion, leading others requires a combination of all four elements listed above. Certainly circumstances will dictate the amount and priority of each, but all are used or have the potential to be used. While managing the task, the leader must organize, train, and direct the actions of the group. The steward places his team and mission before his personal wellbeing and uses resources wisely. The shepherd cares for the team member’s welfare; and while recognizing that life can sometimes be difficult, the shepherd acts humanely to assist members with troubles. Finally, the leader inspires others through his ability to connect with the followers, and convey his values through his words and deed.
And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. Habakkuk 2:2