I know, it sounds like the language of a circus barker, “Come see the Flying Zucchini Brothers as they defy gravity.” However, I am talking about much more than entertaining circus talk. “Defying gravity,” is a terrific description of the way effective leadership teams learn to operate.
If you sit on an elder board at your church, the board of directors for an organization, or even the leadership team of a business, I am going to guess that you find yourself frustrated at times. We have all been there in those meetings when we thought, “are we really spending our time talking about this? Why are we mired in such small stuff when there are really big and strategic issues that need to be addressed?”
You see, the natural path of any organization is downhill. Leadership teams feel the downward pull of gravity through press of the urgent, the reality of fatigue, the desire to feel in control of something, or the relentless demands of the crowd. Gravity draws us toward the path of least resistance, away from altitude-giving perspective, and down into the miry clay of micro details. It is hard to resist gravity.
In contrast, effective leadership teams execute the dance of leadership in a way that defies the gravity plaguing most organizations. It not easy. In fact, defying gravity demands disciplined attention to four courageous behavior patterns.
As you read a summary of these four disciplines, ask yourself, how are you shaping the work and focus of the Board or leadership team you are part of? Is your team plowing the mud at ground level or have you found a way to lead at perspective-giving altitude? For each of the disciplines below, what kind of a grade would you give yourself?
1. STAY ABOVE
Maintain enough altitude to connect the dots between where you have been, where you are, and where you need to be going. “Staying above” means attending to the important more than the urgent. It requires all out war against the desire to exert control through the self-important posture of micro-management.
2. STAY BEYOND
One of the core entrustments of a senior leadership team or governing board is the long range direction of the organization. “Staying beyond” means courageously choosing to resist the lazy posture of perpetual reactivity. Instead of drilling down into the present or simply reporting on the past, conversations and decisions are focused 2-5 years out. Gravity defying teams discipline themselves to think and act on the preferred future.
3. STAY TOGETHER
Human nature is profoundly self-centered and self-protective. However, strong leadership teams go a different direction and choose to fight for one another. They stay honest, open, trusting, and emotionally current with each other. They approach problems and challenges by staying on the same side of the table relationally while the issue lives on the other side to the table. The result? High EQ and the release of collaborative effectiveness, a team where 1+1=100.
4. STAY DEEP
It is easy for a leadership team to become consumed by the responsibilities they carry and the demanding tasks they face at the expense of their souls. My leadership world is primarily the church and Christian ministry organizations, so perhaps I am especially attuned to the cost leadership teams pay for not traveling deep spiritually. However, believing that we were made for lives of intimacy with our Creator through Jesus Christ, it is obvious to me that effective leadership teams learn to practice spiritually forming rhythms together. They are unafraid of unfinished agenda work believing that time in prayer, time spent in God’s Word, and time exploring issues of the soul are matters of greatest priority. Staying deep spiritually releases to defy the gravity of anxiety and drivenness over the demands of everything crying for attention.
What are your thoughts? … Your observations?
I would love your comments.
March 30, 2011
p.s. Thanks Todd, (my pastor) for throwing out a couple comments this past weekend about how our elders work. Thanks too, for leading in these ways. Your comments and your example unlocked the insights in this article.