Recently I was reading an essay by Mark Lau Branson entitled "Forming God's People." He makes the assertion that I've been thinking about a lot since I read it. He states that leadership is generally a secondary question. Rather than asking "how am I supposed to lead," he offers a compelling alternative. The first or most important question actually focuses on what makes a healthy church or how we partner with God in mission or perhaps, how do we nurture spiritual life in our congregation. Here is Branson's way of asking it: "Through our leadership, what do we wish to create or move or form or produce?" If this question rests in a commitment to pursue God's vision of congregational life, then the question becomes a useful way of discernment. For Branson, he suggests that leaders have three kinds of work to do.
First, leaders practice interpretive leadership. Leaders are persons who pay close attention to God, to scripture, and to the contexts of their ministry and create opportunities for the congregation to become a learning community where God's actions, scripture, and context come together.
Second, leaders are relational. It is through relationships that life, salvation, learning, hope, and meaning are found. Leaders are people persons--because God is a peopled person!
Third, leaders engage in implemental leadership. Out of the learning of interpretive leadership and in the mix of relational leadership is the work providing oversight, marshaling resources, delegate tasks, and developing strategies.
I suspect that of the three modes of leadership I've noted--interpretive, relational, and implemental--that each of us have a particular strength. However, it might be useful to ask how that strength might be used to develop one of the other modes of leadership! And, perhaps, most of all, remembering that leadership serves something larger may help us keep our attention on God's mission and purposes within our congregations!
(Mark Lau Branson, "Forming God's People," in Leadership in Congregations, edited by Richard Bass. Alban Institute, 2007.)