So, you’ve been called to serve on the WMU® leadership team? You possess the qualities set forth in the WMU How-To: WMU in Your Church: “You are committed to Jesus Christ, His church, and His mission. You are gifted to serve. You are a visionary. You are a team player. You adapt to new ideas. You are dependable and trustworthy. You are developing leadership skills.”
One of the most important leadership skills you can acquire is to recognize and understand various leadership styles and how those affect the people you lead. Each leader has a particular style he prefers using, but an effective leader accepts that others cannot always adjust to his personal style. He is flexible and uses a variety of ways or styles to influence others. He not only leads with style, but he also matches the right leadership style to those he is leading.
So, just what is your leadership style, and how will it affect the future of WMU? Is your leadership style moving future generations of WMU in the direction you want them to go?
Start with the Basics
There are four basic leadership styles. Each style offers a unique way to lead or influence others to move in a particular direction.
1. Directing—This leader says, “Watch me and learn.” He explains, demonstrates, and provides effective feedback on performance.
2. Guiding or Coaching—This leader explains why something is being done, step by step. He is the coach or guide along the learning experience.
3. Supporting or Participating—This leader uses encouragement and reinforcement. He shares in the decision-making process.
4. Delegating—This leader has very little structure. He is often referred to as the “hands-off” type as he encourages the other person to make and implement decisions.”1
Variety Opens Doors
There is no right or wrong leadership style. Each serves a unique purpose depending upon the learning styles of those you are leading. However, using a variety of leadership styles can open the door to involve many more people, as well as future generations, to discover the joy of missions.
As a member of your WMU leadership team, think about the above leadership styles and how these might affect people you lead. Ask yourself if your leadership style(s) will help or hurt upcoming generations to participate in missions. Are you getting the results you want, or are you alienating others? How can your team be flexible enough to gain more interest, support, and cooperation from others to continue the rich heritage of WMU?
Expect the Unexpected
Effective leaders know they need an understanding, not only of how the world makes sense to them, but also of how it makes sense to others. They do not expect others to find the same solution to problems as they would find.
Unlearning Old Ways
In her book Learning to Lead: Effective Leadership Skills for Teachers of Young Children, Debra Ren-Etta Sullivan says, “Leadership is about solutions that take other perspectives into account . . . the challenge for new leaders is to unlearn old mind-sets and concentrate on the potential and creativity diversity brings” (Redleaf Press, 2003). What a tremendous challenge that can be for any organization, church, or business! Their futures could depend upon whether or not their leaders can continue “unlearning” what was and focus on what can be.
Lead Together with Style
Because of the diversity and the varied interests in today’s churches, leaders often need to perform juggling acts so they can meet many needs. That might sound a bit scary, but it’s really simple. As a team, you can work together and share in the leadership responsibilities in various events, classes, and projects. Together you can continue to encourage current members as well as future generations to live missions lifestyles and to participate in the ministries and age-level organizations of WMU. You can lead with style and help grow upcoming generations to have hearts and minds for missions.
How to Lead with Style:
• Learn more about different leadership styles. Read articles or books about the impact leadership has on future generations. Visit www.prismltd.com/leader.htm.
• Encourage each other as you work together to share in various responsibilities.
• Assume responsibility for giving people what they need so they can learn more.
• Determine who on your team will lead a training event, class, or project to provide a variety of learning experiences for diverse groups you lead.
• Evaluate how you lead. Ask others on your team to be honest as they offer constructive criticism to help you grow in your leadership style(s).
• Recognize readiness in others to do a specific task as you lead.
• Seek to meet the diverse needs of your church members as you prepare for meetings, events, classes, projects, or ministries.
• Help other leaders in your church discover their leadership styles.
• Influence with care.
• Pray about the best leadership style(s) to use as you plan an event, conference, project, or ministry.
• Stay informed about younger generations—what their interests are, how they learn, and how to keep them excited about missions opportunities.
• Know learning styles of various age groups.
• Invite your team to join you at leadership workshops or conferences.
• Lead others with a style that matches their readiness for learning.
• Live with enthusiasm and enjoy those you lead.
• Serve others as you provide a variety of leadership styles to encourage them to participate in missions.
Leadership is a Process
Leadership is a process, so give yourself time to develop into the leader God has called you to be. You are full of potential, full of hope, full of compassion, full of the love of Christ. So lead on, and lead with style!
Adapted from an article that originally appeared in the winter 2005–2006 issue of Missions Leader® magazine. Used by permission.