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Collaborative Leadership

Even on the narrow way, there is room for people walking side by side.
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A collaborative leader remembers that the goal is both accomplishing the task and building the strength of the team. She has to have a "one another" mindset. The New Testament church was not led by a single leader or "senior pastor" but took a team approach (see 1 Corinthians 14:26-33). We would do well, whether we lead in ministry or the marketplace, to study the allelon verses and put them into practice: love one another, be kind to one another, don't judge one another. (Trinity Baptist in Sikestron, Missouri, has created a list of all 100 New Testament uses of allelon on its website here.)

In his book Getting Naked (Jossey-Bass, 2010), leadership consultant Patrick Lencioni talks about the importance of "vulnerable leadership," which means transparency about your flaws (and so much more). This can happen if you have a "one another" mindset with the team you lead.

A second keyword that points us toward collaborative leadership is the word used to describe the Holy Spirit: parakletos. English words like parallel and paralegal spring from the same root. Para means alongside or next to. Parakletos is the God who comes alongside.

Just before he died, Jesus told his followers, "But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don't, the Advocate won't come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you" (John 16:7).

This curious Greek noun, parakletos, is also translated "Counselor," "Comforter," or "Helper." Why so many different words? The Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (Hendrickson Publishers, 2005) notes, "A precise translation of parakletos is difficult to determine. The underlying sense of the term is that of ‘one who stands alongside another in order to offer encouragement, comfort'…the designations ‘Advocate' and ‘Counselor,' while accurate, are not comprehensive. No one English term expresses the full semantic range of parakletos."

The Bible also clearly says that when we trust Jesus and have a relationship with him, the Holy Spirit does indeed come alongside us, lives within us. So we, as believers, are filled with come-alongsideness. It is a call to collaboration.

What does collaborative leadership look like? Rather than marching at the head of the line, or leading like a dictator, we come beside people. We ask questions, then listen well, encourage, strengthen. We don't do people's work for them, but we do coach and encourage them.

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March15, 2012 at 10:18 AM

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