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How to Overcome One of the Biggest Frustrations in Leadership

At NewSpring, we understand our priorities when it comes to authority in our organization. Perry has led the way in asking us to first be committed to Jesus and NewSpring Church before being committed to him. So for me, this makes taking on the challenge of leading up easier to execute because I know that Perry’s concern is beyond his personal success.

One of the things that cripples so many leaders is a team that feels it has no voice.

I have heard many times the frustration of a friend or co-worker as they tell me of some problem that their boss should, they believe, just know about. I always ask, didn’t your boss trust you to lead in this area? Didn’t he or she give you the authority you need to do what is being asked? Then how can your leaders know there is a problem unless you tell them?

Too many times, I have found that person unwilling to take their problem to their leader. They sometimes offer the idea that it’s not their place to challenge the situation, and with that attitude, they have single handedly crippled their team and their leader.

Every leader must create an environment where team members can lead up, but just as important is the commitment of each team member to be willing to lead up.

There have been times Perry has brought an idea to our leadership team, and we have pushed back on that idea. Likewise, there have been times where Perry wasn’t sure about an idea, but our leadership team has pushed him to move forward. Either way, Perry has been able to trust that his team doesn’t just “go along to get along but rather we are committed to pushing back or pushing forward to reach the best decision, no matter what type of pressure that puts on Perry.

To be clear, leading up doesn’t just mean disagreeing with your leader; it also means empowering your leader to move forward when they think they can’t. Strength for the follower lies not only in being honest with your leader, but also in a commitment to the organization over the leader.

For me, a couple of simple ground rules I follow help me know how and when to lead up.

If it’s a matter of integrity (a personal attitude or action displayed by the leader), then I take that issue to the person in private, one on one.

If the issue is a matter of strategy (an idea or plan offered up by the leader), then I address that issue in the team setting, as a part of the overall discussion. Again, this is not just about disagreement; in both cases (integrity or strategy), I can push back or push forward.

Anyone who has a leadership gift and position will rarely find it difficult to put downward pressure on their team to perform. I have found few leaders who are open to and create an environment to accept real pressure from the individuals on their team. Fewer still are the number of followers who will see their responsibility to lead their leader and own the responsibility to do so.

What does every leader need?

Every leader needs each person on their team to love the organization and the leader enough to be honest and open…when it’s time to push back and when it’s time to push forward. That’s the only way everyone reaches their maximum potential where everyone—organization, team, and individual—goes further faster than you would have ever thought possible.  

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shaneduffey@churchleaders.com'
Shane Duffey is the Creative Arts Pastor at NewSpring Church in Anderson, SC.