Last month, I wrote a post about being comfortable in the middle, commenting on John Maxwell’s book The 360-Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization. It bears repeating (since we currently prefer the term ‘facilitator’), that we are all leaders even just in simple ways in our homes, neighborhoods, in class, etc. Being a 360-Degree leader is about showing healthy support and positive influence to everyone below, around, and above us. It’s not about being the boss.
Today I want to make an additional comment on a second chapter of Maxwell’s book which states that “Good leaders in the middle make better leaders at the top”. In other words, good middle-leaders improve the effectiveness of their top leaders. And, that is what we as facilitators want to do.
Maxwell goes on to say that in industrialized nations we have a whole culture around leadership training and expectations. But in developing countries, leadership is more ‘positional’, keeping distance between the leader and followers. The challenge, particularly for those of us who live in “highly positional” cultures, is how to model and/or encourage various levels of leadership. We don’t want to just train people how to be a ‘western’ leader.
In my opinion, the suggestions in the book apply to all cultures, though living them out may be different. So, how do leaders who excel in the middle (facilitators), add to the leaders over them?
1. Make a better team by helping carry some of the weight and/or the vision of the local leader above them.
Example: Our National Supt. Graça Nhatelo sometimes asks Jim and I to be main speakers at District Conferences. He always gives us his theme to promote for the year. One time he asked Jim to promote the idea of every member giving 10 mt monthly ($0.15) for National Church leaders’ transportation budget. Even though Jim doesn’t like to be the one talking about money, in promoting this, Jim carried Rev. Nhatelo’s vision and gave it extra weight, as it came from both the National leader and the M.
2. Allow top leaders to be free to focus on other priorities.
Example: When a donation was sent for Bibles, Rev. Nhatelo asked me to be in charge of purchasing and distributing them. When I tried to get out of it by saying someone local might be better, he said no, because I was the one who had had the passion to organize it and would see the money was spent correctly. I accepted, but I had a local pastor work with me so that he could also gain the vision and experience. In the past I have tried to decline certain things, saying I am no longer “the leader”, but I have been reminded I am also part of the team. So this is a dynamic that facilitators have to wrestle with.
3. Bring out the best in others by modeling the ‘A’ game ourselves.
Examples: Sometimes we do this without even realizing. (1) Years ago. we were in a local church and the pastor said that our young son set a good example. Our ears perked up. He said that Ben brought his Bible to church every week. We didn’t even realize we were setting an example; it was simply the way we were raised. (2) A young pastor said he takes good care of the car he has purchased and that he learned to do that by observing how the Ms took care of theirs.
4. Add value to top leaders by being a positive influence on other team members.
Example: Projects have been challenging in Mozambique as the culture values being with people more than tasks and many are not a fan of paperwork. I have tried to stress that if money is received from Western donors, they need to understand the Western importance of time and of reports in order to have good communication. In multiple meetings, I would ask the status of a project. There were times I would make multiple calls to see if something was done. There were times I would offer to take a picture and send it to the person responsible so they could give a progress report. Sometimes, I was concerned that, as a facilitator, I was being too pushy or annoying. However, I spoke to the National Supt. and he told me that I was doing the right things and I needed to continue patiently teaching and modeling. (Your country may have different dynamics. But it is always helpful when you are able to have open communication with the top leader.) This week, a leader said, “I think we must make a commitment to begin a project as soon as the funds are received.” -- Music to my ears.
5. Motivate other leaders to learn and grow. As others see us reading, taking webinars, going to conferences, accepting advice, we model the value of learning.
6. Advance the future by training others in leadership and innovation skills. – Pastoral training and leadership training, such as Leadership Matters, are areas in which GP has been strong in the past. GP has also recognized that overseas long-term training can have unintended negative effects. While we continue promoting different types of training, I believe we need to be careful that we don’t simply copy Western methods/skills.
Some of these points may seem obvious, but is there is an area in which we need to be more intentional?