By Jenni Catron
“If you want to work with widgets, go work in a factory. If you want to work with people, you’re going to have to learn how to love them and lead them and work with them.” I heard these words as a twenty-three year old learning to manage my first employee. These words impacted me and helped me learn people’s crucial importance to leadership.
The truth is, we need to be more impacted by people. Our leadership is neither about us or for us but about other people. Since it is about people, it requires collaboration. Ultimately, this collaborative leadership is sacred work because we are exerting our influence in the lives of others.
The more leadership influence we have, the more interdependent we must become. The more we must recognize the beauty and value of working together. However, people are hard. Collaboration is messy. Conflict is a reality.
What do we do? How do we value, care for, and inspire those we lead while addressing challenges and leading effectively?
First, we must be humble. Being a leader championing for collaboration starts within ourselves. It begins with our character. Our motivation for collaboration must not be from selfish ambition but from valuing others above ourselves (Philippians 2:3). It means a paradigm shift from “me” to “we.”
Second, we must honor those with whom we serve. A collaborative outlook views leadership as not concerned with personal success but with honoring others through making a way for those around us. It is about drawing out the giftings of others and pairing those giftings with our organizational mission to see people come alive. Honoring people by developing their giftings ultimately honors Christ.
Here are three keys to collaboration:
Leaders are often in their positions because they get things done, but this orientation toward tasks and tactics can make us neglect heart and humanness. We work with people; it’s what we do. Although we move the mission forward, we have to think of people and relationships first because it’s relationships that can reciprocally fuel movement.
If, as John Maxwell states, “Everything rises and falls on leadership,” then it can be asserted that “Leadership rises or falls on communication.” We can build collaboration on our teams by slowing down long enough to ask: Who needs to know? What do they need to know? When do they need to know it? Taking time to see the people around us and answer honors them, helps the mission, and fosters collaboration.
We all must provide accountability for others and speak the truth in love, but this can be difficult. This vital key to collaboration begins with us modeling leadership by being accountable to the people around us. We can keep others accountable when we keep our word, take ownership, and are faithful, dependable, and responsible. Until we model accountability, we can’t expect accountability.
God sent His Son to us to redeem and restore. Now, He works with us through the Great Commission, and He has commissioned us to work with others. Collaboration, although difficult, allows us to accomplish the work God to which has called us for His glory and the good of others as we inspire people to be their best and strive to fulfil our ultimate mission together.
Adapted from Pipeline 2016: Developing Your Leadership Pipeline. To learn more about how to lead in collaboration, check out our free Ministry Grid courses Introduction to Leadership Pipeline and Leadership Pipeline Competency Overview.
Jenni Catron is a writer, speaker, and leadership coach who consults churches and nonprofits.