Loving Teamship: Loving your team leader

Apple on a teacher's desk

Used with permission

This is the last in a series about ‘loving teamship’ that started with loving your teammates and then loving your team. It is also the flip side of the post Loving Leadership that talked about leaders loving their staff members. It may seem strange to talk about loving the team leader, especially because that love is focused on one person while all the other posts talk about loving an entire class of people or a group, but Jesus commanded us to love one another, so why would the team leader be excluded from those we are to love?

Hebrews 13:17 is a good starting point for this topic. It includes some very practical advice about how you should relate to your leaders, which the biblical author points out is in your own best interest to follow:

“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”

Restated, the key point is “Let your leaders lead because when their work is a joy, yours will be too!” You can have confidence in them and submit to them because they in turn are accountable to someone over them (perhaps a board or an overseer, and always ultimately to God himself).

It is a lot easier to say “Yes, we should love our leaders” than it is to say, “so I should love my leader” because it is easier to love people in abstract than to love a specific human being with specific traits in a specific scenario. Team members should keep in mind that Christian leaders are as fallible as they are. We all do the best we can, earnestly desiring to grow more like Jesus every day. So I understand that it can be hard to love your leader. It can also be hard to love your neighbour, but that doesn’t give us an excuse not to.

The power differential in an employment relationship does present some potential obstacles to loving your leader and these do need to be dealt when they arise. One of these I’ve already posted about and more will come in future posts.

But on the topic of demonstrating love for your leader, here are some basic ideas to start with.

Relations with the team leader

The best way to show love for a leader, aside from what you would do for any other person, is to help the leader lead. There are several specific ways a team member can do this.

  • Pray for them  Pray that the leader would be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, for God’s blessing on their leadership and that you would be helpful to the leader as you work together to accomplish the ministry’s mission. Don’t forget to pray that you too would be sensitive to the Holy Spirit!
  • Offer your suggestions. Leaders love suggestions. While leaders should have lots of ideas, they are not the only ones to whom the Lord gives vision and ideas. Suggestions are welcome because:
      1. it shows that team members are really thinking about the organization and not just their jobs – this indicates they are engaged in the mission
      2. it reinforces the “we’re in this together” attitude, which really builds team spirit
      3. it shares the burden of being creative. It’s one thing to do what has already been thought about; it’s quite another thing to think about what hasn’t already been done
      4. it shows that you are creative, and that is good for your career if you aspire to a leadership role
  • Support the organization’s values  Leaders are particularly concerned with maintaining a healthy team, so team dynamics are very important to them. Leaders would love it if every staff member were a perfect model of the organizational and team values in action because then life would be much easier for everyone. Not working by the values creates all kinds of problems, and leaders would rather capitalize on opportunities than fix problems. As Peter Drucker famously wrote in Managing For Results, “Results are obtained by exploiting opportunities, not by solving problems. All one can hope to get by solving a problem is to restore normality.”  Don’t be a problem!
  • Be flexible  Maybe a task requires you to stay a little late. Perhaps something pops up and you have to set a project aside temporarily. Leaders try not to disrupt workflow, but when something happens that they feel requires a team member to make an adjustment, be accommodating. That makes life much easier for the leader, who will always appreciate a flexible employee. An employee who says ‘yes’ more than ‘no’ will always be more highly valued because they provide the leader with more options.
  • Do your very best. Check your work and do it right the first time. Eliminate re-work! There simply is no excuse for doing less than what you are capable of. Your job or the task you’ve been assigned is never done until it is correctly done. In some cases your work must be perfectly done and in others just well done is enough (perfectionism can be costly and sometimes good enough is good enough). Be sure to get guidance on what level of ‘perfection’ is needed from you.
  • Own your own personal and professional development. Every employer should have an annual development plan for each staff member, but whether they do or don’t, you should have one for yourself. If they won’t pay for a course you think you need, then you pay for it yourself for your own benefit. If they don’t appreciate your development efforts, someone else will. Employers love staff who are continuous learners. If you have done nothing to upgrade your skills within the last five years, you are likely very close to being obsolete. I’ve been told by someone working in technology that if he stopped reading technical journals he would be obsolete in less than six months. If you think you are too old to learn something new, you have decided to sideline yourself. If you think that you finally graduated from college last year and are done with learning, your future looks bleak.  Be a continuous learner.
  • Extend your leader’s leadership throughout your work area. I’ve already discussed this in The ‘Ripple Effect’ of Leadership, so here I’ll just remind team members that the board chose the senior leader as the person best suited to lead the organization to achieve the ministry’s mission, and the senior leader chose the best available people to serve as other leaders to help him or her do that. The best thing you can do is extend your leader’s influence as far as you can. Leaders work hard to get the whole team to pull together as one unit to get the job done. Whatever you can do to help create unity will only help the leader move the whole organization or department forward.

These ideas all come together in this piece of advice: The best way to love your team leader is to exercise leadership yourself in tune with theirs.

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Thoughts on Loving Teamship: Loving your team leader

  1. Peter Durksen

    Hi John
    I have just read your several recent blogs on loving and leadership.
    In addition to the excellent points you make very directly, I appreciate several that are inferred, or that I infer.
    Leadership- while leadership(influence) can come from any level in an organization, I take that term as used in your blogs to refer mostly to the CEO or similar positions
    Team- I take “team” to mean staff members, ie employees. Problems can arise when board members are included in the “team”.
    Governance- while you do not use that term, you do refer to the “board”. It is very helpful to distinguish, as you do, between “board” and “team”, and between “leadership” and “goverance.
    Blessings
    Peter D

    Reply
    1. John PelloweJohn Pellowe Post author

      Hi Peter, good to hear from you again.

      Yes, the blog is directed primarily to senior staff leaders (CEOs and senior pastors), but there are other levels of formal leadership in a ministry that most of the leadership ideas apply to as well, and of course anyone can exercise informal leadership. So you have inferred correctly.

      You are also correct about ‘team’. I use the term with only staff in mind (either paid or volunteer). However, there are many examples where there is an “us vs. them” attitude between staff and board that is quite unhealthy, and it would be good if directors and staff thought of their all being on one team, but with different roles. As CEO, it is my job to bridge the two realms (governance and execution) and hold them together. (I think I feel another post coming on!) But for my blog, my focus is on the staff team.

      And yes, those are helpful distinctions between board/team and leadership/governance. I think with governance in particular there is a generally poor understanding of what governance actually is. Many board/staff problems occur when directors think governance means “super-management” – ie., that being a director means making the final management decisions, the final court-of-appeal so-to-speak, for how the organization is run. In some organizations the by-laws and/or board policy may give it that role, but in many cases ill-informed directors just assume the role. This is why board orientation should always include governance training and specific review of the board’s role as defined by the particular ministry. The board is always the final authority, and if it is not happy with how the organization is being run, it has the right/obligation to change the CEO or further restrict the decision authority delegated to the CEO. But over-ruling the CEO on matters that have been delegated to the CEO is a serious problem because the CEO’s ability to lead is undermined and the board has become the de facto senior manager.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Reply

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