Many church leaders find themselves in a very awkward situation. Someone else seems to have the ear of their team members.
You know the story… You’re the senior pastor or staff member. But when you speak people aren’t listening to you but they are allowing someone else on the team you lead to give direction to an initiative.
This may simply be because someone else has a longer tenure with the team. But it may be that you as the key leader have left a leadership vacuum.
A leadership vacuum is a hole that needs filling, a question that goes unanswered, a task that needs assigned, or a pre-existing responsibility that was never followed up on and has been left hanging.
A leader can often realize when a leadership vacuum is being created if, during a team meeting, a question is asked or a task needing to be done is suggested but the key leader of the meeting remains silent. The awkward silence that follows may be a clear indicator that a leadership vacuum has just been created and, if you’re a leader leading leaders, someone in the room will probably try to fill that vacuum.
Someone once wisely stated, “If there is a leadership vacuum, someone will fill it.”
At that point the key leader loses some level of influence with the rest of the team members. The proactive team member has trumped the level of authority of the staff member spearheading the ministry. This is why it’s important for those of us who spearhead a work to be certain we don’t leave room for a leadership vacuum to appear.
A Leadership vacuum is perceived to be or is a reality when:
- A key leader stops casting the vision God has given them. Cast vision at least every 30 days.
- During a team meeting, a team member begins to describe a different vision that that of the key leader and the key leader allows the revamped vision to linger without graciously renouncing and redirecting the group back to the original vision.
- A question arises in a meeting and the key leader tells the team she/he will get back with the group but doesn’t.
- There is an obvious job that needs to be done and others on the team are vividly aware of it, but the key leader ignores the need and assigns no one the responsibility to accomplish the task.
- The key leader seems to go AWOL on the team. She/he gets busy with other obligations and stops contacting team members, calling team meetings, and/or loses touch with team members.
- The key leader is poorly prepared when the team meets simply having meetings with no purpose and no meaningful outcomes.
Rick Howerton is a consultant and trainer on small groups. He is founding pastor of The Bridge Church in Spring Hill, Tennessee. He is the author of several books.