I love fall. The crisp cool air, football on TV just about every night, our anniversary is in October, and our house transforms into a wonderful aroma of candles, chili, and looting the boys' Halloween candy. Fall also is when I spend every weekend raking and mulching leaves from the trees in our yard and cleaning out gutters. But fall only lasts a while, and will move on to winter and its uniqueness. Leadership flows just like the seasons, there are different stages in any leadership tenure. I think there are four distinct seasons, and like the calendar can be cyclical (or if you live in Kentucky can happen all in a week!)
Honeymoon - Any leader gets an initial stage where everyone is glad for a new face, new voice, and new ideas. Whatever anticipation was there before your arrival means you have a great time of adjustment and optimism. The honeymoon season is also when you do your most important early leadership task: listen. You need to learn as much as you can about your new setting, and the honeymoon phase lets you do that. You don't need to make any major changes (unless there are glaring issues), because your most important goal is to build relationships.
Conflict - Unfortunately, all honeymoons come to an end. You make a change, replace a long-time leader because of ineffectiveness, or unknowingly stick your foot in your mouth. The conflict happens when your new ideas challenge the status quo, and is the unintended consequence of change. But all organizations, businesses, and churches need to be dynamic in their culture, which means periods of change are necessary every few years. The conflict season in leadership is where many leaders look for greener pastures, to go back to the honeymoon. Leaders in conflict stage have three choices:
Multiplication - In this stage of leadership, organizational change requires you to multiply yourself through the leaders raised up through the coalition stage. Unfortunately, the high-touch leadership needed in the honeymoon and conflict stages has been replaced by a much lower-touch approach because your leadership is multiplied through other leaders. That's why this is cyclical, because as the organization changes and your role as a leader shifts, you may find yourself right back in the conflict stage as people question your changing approach. But a multiplication approach is the most effective phase, because other leaders are raising up other leaders who are carrying out the vision and accomplishing far more than you could ever do by yourself.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.