Collaborative Leadership

Even on the narrow way, there is room for people walking side by side.

The most efficient way to lead, if you want to be completely pragmatic about it, is via dictatorship. A system in which one person makes all the autonomous decisions is, at least for a while, the most efficient, the least messy.

But power corrupts, and ultimately, while decisions get made and orders are carried out, those decisions are often bad ones. Great execution of a bad decision is still, well, a mess. Dictatorship, even benevolent dictatorship, is neither healthy nor biblical.

One of the greatest gifts women bring to leadership within the church body is our social conditioning toward collaboration. The difference between "do it this way!" and "What if we did it this way?" is subtle but important. One of our greatest ways to influence the church is by modeling collaborative leadership, which is what all believers—men and women—are called to in the New Testament.

A caveat: leadership that builds consensus and collaboration does not necessarily come naturally to anyone, male or female. We are all human beings and therefore, at least a little selfish. We all need to improve our skills in collaborative leadership.

Two New Testament "keywords" point clearly toward collaboration and cooperation. This style of leadership does not compromise authority, but reflects the beautiful mutual submission that the Bible calls us to live in (see Ephesians 5:21, for example).

Jesus told his disciples: " So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other" (John 13:34).

The word translated "each other" in this pivotal verse is allelon. Also translated "one another," this Greek word appears 100 times in the New Testament. We find it scattered in the epistles, coupled with exhortations regarding what we should do: pray for, love, serve, comfort, encourage…each other. For example: "Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other" (Romans 12:10). It's also in verses that remind us what we should not do: judge, speak unkindly, lie. For example: "So let's stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall" (Romans 14:13).

The word allelon expresses the mutuality and community that is an inextricable part of our faith. Christianity is a one-another faith, and as leaders, we are to model that orientation toward others (even if we lead in a secular setting).

March 15, 2012 at 10:18 AM

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