The Vice-President of the Resource Division of LifeWay is Eric Geiger. I’ve worked on his team for over three years now and have seen first hand how valuable it is to develop a clear approach to relating to your leader. I suppose the years of working with pastors with a variety of personality types (some had more than one) and leadership styles, there are a few things I’ve picked up along the way. But in recent years, working with Eric, I’ve observed some new patterns that I believe are repeatable.
Perhaps these four points might enable some of you to help your leader lead you well.
- Match his speed.
You’ve seen this played out in track and field events countless of times. To pass a baton, the runner receiving it has to get going before the runner passing it arrives. They approximate each other’s speed and make the clear exchange. If they fail to do that, the baton gets dropped and the race is lost.
When you interact with your leader, quickly assess the pace of their work on that particular day and match it. Don’t overwhelm him by giving information at a sprint pace if he is operating with more reflection at that time – and vice versa. You might have to speed up or slow down. But, gauge his/her speed and match it.
- Allow him to be unguarded without fear.
If your leader trusts you enough to open up about his challenges or the decisions he is pondering at any given moment, protect those sentiments at all costs. Don’t over-react to those statements and make them more impactful than he would mean for them to be. Discern when he is “thinking out loud” and when he is giving you a “clear direction.” If you can’t tell the difference, ask for clarification. Don’t over analyze the things he is saying off-handed since he likely has not even vetted his own assumptions at that point. Remember, the great thing about a sounding board is that it won’t run out and do anything no matter what you say. Everyone needs sounding boards. Understand those moments when that is what your leader needs from you.
Simply stated, don’t take every word and turn them into an edict – if you do, your leader will soon start guarding his words around you – something that would not be beneficial to you in the long run. Let him express what he is thinking without fear of being misunderstood.
- Respect his time.
Leaders by nature are busy people. Even when they are “off the grid,” the pressure and responsibility of leading the organization dominates their thinking. If your leader dedicates part of his/her time to you, make sure every moment of it matters, even if it is spent in a fun way. Your leader will want more time with you if the time he is spending now is valuable and meaningful. But if it is wasted, he/she will want less – something that could be harmful to your work.
Be prepared and have all requested information at your fingertips. Focus by avoiding distractions (phone, computer) and actively listen.
- Pursue hearing more than being heard.
When interacting with your leader, you can easily fall into the trap of thinking the time is all about what is important to you and would be best used exploring how he can help you in your work. You might even be thinking, ”This is my best shot to get my point across.” It would be far more beneficial to approach this time with the opposite goal. “What is he saying to me that I need to understand? What are his pain points? How is my work fitting into his goals for our organization?”
Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls like those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”
All of us would want our leaders to, “lead us with joy and not with grief.” I realized several years ago while studying this verse that whenever my leader is not leading me with joy, it says more about my follow-ship than his leadership. Spend the energy to know your leader well and follow in such a way that it produces joy in him – and that will ultimately be joyful for you.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.