Where organizations, or teams, often waver is in failure to define the parameters of the primary leader. If a leader takes on more responsibility than what others think belongs to that position, that leader is in danger of being called controlling. If the opposite happens, he/she may be called weak, passive, or inept. There are different levels of vision, strength, responsibility, and tenacity in primary leaders—everything from passive/weak to proactive/strong. There are also different environments that may require more leadership intensity than team intensity. If I can make an extreme statement that may need some balance, it is, when it comes to strong leaders, the concept of balance may go flying out the door!
Balance is virtuous, but it is not absolute! Jesus was not balanced in many areas of His influence. Balance is often perceived as taming extremes, or bringing things outside the box into the box. Balance is like finding a common denominator and throwing out the rest.
Balance, in its place, is awesome. It is virtuous, and we should seek it. But out of its place, it can be merely safe and unproductive.
What I am saying is that there are times in leadership where balance can go too far. Great world changers are rarely (to never) common denominators. Extremes often need balanced, but balance isn’t always a characteristic of functional leadership. One of the dangers of teamwork is that it can place something inside a box that needs to stay outside of the box.
Healthy teams are not designed to replace radical leadership with balanced leadership. The stronger the leader—the stronger his vision, the stronger his grit, and the more radical is his behavior. Any leader who always does what everyone else thinks is right, is likely not much of a leader. This is NOT to say that leaders must be given the freedom to do whatever they want or think is right. This is where every leader needs to build trust within his/her team—trust based on character and on proven experience. A great leader is strong, but he/she is also a servant and one who is constantly working to better him/herself.
Another Breed of Primary Leader
Not all leaders are strong, up-front individuals, yet they are primary leaders. This style of leadership is usually not someone who is high D, or dominant, in the DISC Personality Profile. Some leaders are prone to stay in the back and push their team. They function brilliantly by extracting the vision out of their team. This model will look quite different than the model of a team led by leaders who, although being good team players, take a more primary leadership role. One model is not better than the other when both are functioning where they belong.
Some of you may be wondering if the kingdom culture, and the concept of teamwork, waters down strong primary leadership. This couldn’t be further from the truth! A strategically chosen team is wind to a strong leader’s back.
A leader must see what no one else sees. And though the team may refine or help direct the vision of the leader, or speak into the timing of the vision, the primary leader must be free to lead where he/she must go, in the timing of the Lord.
It should also be noted that different leadership environments, just like different leadership profiles, require a longer leash for the primary leader, than do other environments. An example of this is when a leader comes into a struggling organization, or one that is failing. He/she still needs a team, but in order to turn the organization around, the leader may have to be three quarters of the pie, or more, at least until the organization is back on track.
For many years, I worked at Abundant Living Ministries as a speaker and counselor. John Charles, the director, was a strong primary leader. He guarded the vision of the ministry, but he did it in a way that all of us, under his leadership, felt valued and significant. When we had a decision to make, we would brainstorm or cast in our own metrons of opinion. After an acceptable amount of discussion and input, John would process the feedback and make the decision. Though the decisions he made were not always the ones I would have made, I was always safe under his leadership. I knew that the one responsible for the primary vision had to carry the heaviest load. He, as the primary leader, had a sense for the direction of the ministry that the rest of us were not privy to. The ministry has enjoyed decades of success.
My point is that in his role as Director of Abundant Living, John was appropriately required to carry a bigger piece of the pie. Yet John still valued his team. For instance, I once came up with an idea for a unique training seminar that, looking back, was one I regretted suggesting. John gave deference to me and tried the seminar. It went okay, but we never hosted another one.
Teamwork is essential and beneficial in every level of leadership, but the team must clearly understand how much authority a primary leader has in relation to the team. This may vary according to the metron and experience of the leader and the mission of the team. Failure to bring this understanding will eventually result in unnecessary conflict from false expectations. Some visions are more effective when they are heavy on the “team” concept, and some are more effective when they are heavy on one person carrying the vision with the assistance of a team. Teams must understand how big a piece of the pie the primary leader has, because it will vary according to the factors stated above. Failure to do this will inevitably and eventually cause some measure of division.