When I started this program at George Fox, I knew it would play a critical role in both my personal ministry and leadership. Not only did it play a role, but it helped shaped my global perspective. This semester I had to privilege to attend a John Maxwell conference, live webinars with Michael Hyatt and the unforgettable advance to the United Kingdom. The connecting factor with all these factors that I will explore from this week’s reading is “New Relationships.” Personally, I was defined by my circumstances and the need to be accepted as a leader. However, I challenged myself to take these new relationships (starting with my cohort) as an opportunity to create new guidelines for maximum impact by becoming vulnerable. For the first time in my life, I also committed to a year-long, weekly mentorship with my senior pastor and a few other pastors.
Open leadership is “having the confidence and humility to give up the need to be in control while inspiring commitment from people to accomplish goals” (p. 14). When Jason C., our lead mentor said their role as advisors were to guide us through the program, that gave me confidence. Firstly, the advisors were acknowledging the potential inside of me and secondly, I needed to become open to the idea that they probably knew more about leadership than I did. It is so easy to think that because we are the leaders that we are actually in control but if the people stop following us, we automatically lose the “leadership title.” Effective or ineffective, we are leaders because someone is following.
Charlene Li provides five areas for us to consider on our leadership journey that I believe will add value to our lives. However, I will use the story of the American Red Cross to help bring clarity.
The story about the American Red Cross is an excellent example of showing those who have some power. “What’s fascinating about this story is that the American Red Cross started engaging in social media because it sought to control it, but realized over time that it was better to be open and engage with those who were already engaging them.” Volunteer leadership leads the majority of our churches, and with growth, volunteerism increases. Since we need these leaders, we must recognize the power but create guidelines like Wendy Harmon to define how our ministries should behave.
Share constantly to build trust
Li tells us that Wendy Harmon culled an average of 400 comments (daily) of what people were saying about the company and emailed them to top leadership, then showed them the benefits of seizing the opportunity. People want information, and when they cannot get it, they will “make it up” because they believe you are hiding something. While we could say “it is none of their business,” in reality, it is their business to know. It becomes unfair to ask people to share their challenges as followers without ever hearing how their leaders overcame any challenge. While we should be selective in what we share as leaders, we should never stop sharing something meaningful to build trust. “Being open should not be a mantra or philosophy, but considered, rigorous approach to strategy and leadership that yields real results” (Loc. 198, Kindle).
Nurture curiosity and humility
“You need to seek out opportunities to be humbled each and every day – to be touched as much by the people who complain as by those who say “Thank you.’” In my style of leadership, I often conduct anonymous surveys and in-person meetings to create an opportunity to learn how to improve my leadership. However, I also found that these practices also help to develop closer relationships. The first year of my leadership at this church, no one invited me to anything because he or she were still curious as to how I would continue to lead. Since that year, I have been invited to important events like high school graduations, family barbecues, 18th birthday parties, among others. My team is comfortable sharing because I am comfortable sharing.
Hold openness accountable
As stated with American Red Cross, they are risks involved with being open. However, if we create guidelines, policies, and procedures, these will help to ensure that the value of openness is realized. Openness is not merely an exposure; it is a strategy that helps an organization (or leader) engage its customers, congregations or employees.
Li talks about planning to fail well because of the failing reality of any business. I think we deceive ourselves if we believe that everything will be perfect. The reality is “how you lead and recover through that failure will say more about your ability to lead than how you lead in times of plenty.” Have you ever noticed how people tend to forgive an appalling crime if the individual is always open than when they are private? The open relationship we create helps to provide security for forgiveness.
The purpose of this book was accomplished because we learn how to submit to people by meeting people at their point of curiosity and becoming humble. While leaders may become fearful in an open environment, “greater transparency and authenticity can bring significant benefits to their organizations.”