One of the best things about the bosses I’ve had in 15 years of youth ministry is that they don’t look over my shoulder. They’re careful to weigh in on the important stuff, cast vision, defend and jump in only when necessary. That’s the best! I function best when I’m believed in and given tons of freedom to dream and deliver. Get too much in my way and I won’t feel believed in, trusted or even like I’m really leading at all.
The problem with empowerment and freedom is that it is often accompanied by loneliness. When someone says “you’ve got permission”, “your call” or “run with it” and then walks away, I’m initially super thankful – the last thing I want is a senior pastor or a supervisor that is too hands on. But the freedom you first enjoy can turn ugly when I start to feel alone. I get lost in my head and start to feel under-appreciated and undervalued. Sometimes it goes the other way and I wrongly feel arrogant or prideful. Either way, I’m not in a good place.
An adjustment I want to make to help correct this is to keep my leaders in the loop and know that they continue to trust me with leadership, but at the same time fight for non task-specific relational time with them. I’m going to be more proactive with asking for coffee and connecting in and out of the church office. I’m not going to let myself fall into the sad trap of feeling alone, siloed or isolated.
What’s interesting is that as I realize I feel this way about my bosses, I want to be sure I’m the kind of leader that lives this out toward those under my responsibility as a boss myself. I want to be a leader that is generous with responsibility and continually giving significant leadership away, but at the same time making sure I cheer on my team, share life, hang out, fight for time and coach/train when we fall short. I want to make sure I’m modeling what it means to give leadership away and being a good leader to my team at the same time. It would crush me for them to think they are trusted with responsibilities and not trusted with my time.
“Fire and forget” leadership is cheap and can be used to disguise just dumping responsibilities instead of developing genuine leadership in someone else. Good leadership gives away tasks and responsibilities and grants freedom, but great leadership gives tasks and responsibilities away then journeys with that person to make them an indispensable part of the team.