Integrated Relational Leadership
“Life is about relationships; the rest is just furniture in the room”. – Dr. Frank Green. Through an intensive formation experience with Dr. Frank Green, I quickly realized how most of my life had been focused on “furniture”, those non-relational outcomes, and results. I had often “missed” the real value of people and relationships with them. For me, people became cogs in a machine, rather than teammates and friends. I sought to convince rather than to connect with those who I served alongside. Moving forward I want to lead in ways where we can be empowered together, bringing all of who we are, working together in relationship to bring about the community and contexts that God desires (His kingdom culture explained in the Sermon on the Mount).
I’ve been learning so much these past many months. and these recent blog posts are meant to capture these learnings and to share the new path I’m beginning to walk. As I tried to figure out how to communicate how I now think about leadership I came up with the term, “integrated relational leadership”. Allow me to unpack it a little…
Integrated: in Christian leadership, we access, utilize, and are impacted by all aspects of our lives. I’ve learned from Romans 12:1 where it says, “offer yourselves as living sacrifices”. That we don’t just offer our spirituality, our gifts, or our religious practices…we offer ourselves, whole and complete. Our past wounds and wins shape us profoundly. Our emotions provide windows into what drives us and how we interpret the events we face. Our human influences both living and dead create “norms” that we live within. Our personal relationships with our families of origin as well as current friends and spouse have a profound impact on who we are and how we operate as human beings. Many of these things have shaped how we’re wired as people and how we think about things. Add to this the unique giftings and experiences that God has orchestrated into our lives. A truly integrated leadership style is aware of, accesses, and heals all of these elements both for the individual as well as for those he/she serves. This is the work I’m doing now and want to help facilitate in others as well as God provides opportunity.
Relational: our focus moves from the what to the how we do things. In every context and environment, there are relationships that become the priority. Each relationship impacts the other and therefore if we miss the person, we lose (regardless of how much we “accomplish”). We must remember that we are 100% responsible for everything we think, feel, and do (therefore we don’t blame our feelings or actions on others). And that we are responsible to others to treat them with understanding and respect. Personally, in all environments, I will choose to embrace weakness, knowing that it is not a state I once had, but one I live in all the time. I am continually wrestling with my issues and self-condemnation and interpreting events and comments through filters from my past. Therefore, I will regularly be stopping, backing up, thinking it through, and doing it differently since I am living in greater awareness of my weakness and fears. I am learning to ask better questions, empathize with where the other person is and respond to what they are feeling before addressing the vision or direction. It’s better to build a relationship than to win a debate.
The key aspect of the integrated relational leader is building community on the teams we serve. The focus is to demonstrate and lead from a community that is exemplifying the attributes we want to invite those we lead into. We begin to realize that the more we each do our own internal work and come alongside each other, that the healthier we will each become. The less we isolate and highlight aspects of ourselves (try to prove ourselves) and rather integrate all of our lives into our ministry, the more effective we will be as leaders. Ministry now can far exceed the “bottom-lines” that corporate America pushes towards, presenting a new transformational, gospel-centered reality. The goal is now who we become together not what we accomplish. Outcomes and results move to the outgrowth of a well-functioning team, not the goal themselves.
The leader in this integrated relational system becomes less a “hero” and more of a “facilitator”. They brainstorm solutions with the team and seek an outcome that we can all own (even if it’s not the one they would have chosen singularly). Thier goal will be to exhibit characteristics such as collaboration, empowerment, integration, innovation, and collective intelligence since it becomes less about the individual and more about the team. They lead from authentic transparency and vulnerability recognizing how they are influenced both by negative and positive things from their past and current wounds and wins. They want to lead aware of what’s happening inside of them. The leader in this new system is emotionally intelligent and spiritually dependent. Their pursuit is wisdom, applying God’s truth with great skills and love.
The kingdom of God exists in how relationships are done, and the integrated relational leader wants to offer understanding and respect as a demonstration of the Gospel’s power in our lives.