The Journey “Lead From Among”

The Journey “Lead From Among”

I realize this is not traditional. Most of the time, the image of leadership shows one person out ahead with others doing their best to keep up. But, I am experimenting with a different type of leadership and am amazed at how effective it actually is.

Tradition teaches, along with many leadership courses, that a leader is titled and placed in a position. But, what if that is not always true? What if leadership can be entirely different? What if some of the most effective leaders are those who lead from among?

I have worked under different titles of leadership. From the time I was young, I gravitated toward titles. Titles were held in high regard and encouraged by those around me. In fact, the idea of gaining a title became an award in itself, something to be achieved and something that gave me value. But, my value does not come because of a credential.

A few years ago, I felt led to try a different approach to leadership in a specific area of my life. I hope, by being transparent with my experience, you may consider the impact we can each make as we also learn to lead from among.

This group was new. It was forming. It was still trying to find its place in a larger community and understand what that place would look like. We had a general idea of direction. We had a specific focus for our ministry. We were on new ground but were also working within existing parameters. I felt that I was not to actively seek a formal role in this specific group, but rather to focus on encouraging others in the group to reach their full potential.

This group had a leader who had a title and a position of authority. Encouraging everyone on the team also meant supporting and encouraging the person in that role, as well. Yes, a titled leader does influence a group dynamic, but the members within the group itself carry their own momentum.  Often, in many groups, this momentum is a negative force of complaining and resistance that counters unity.

As we continued to develop as a team, I found ways to encourage those around me, offering help where it was needed, diffusing negativity and, sometimes, working one on one to encourage confidence and develop skill sets.

In some sense, the idea of what a title meant to me faded away. A title became something neutral. I watched the group dynamics change as different people stepped into those current titles. But the title itself did not draw the group together. The attitude and way the group valued and honored each other is what created a cohesive and unified team.

Over the course of this part of The Journey, a major key to identity surfaced.  A title, or position of authority did not alter who I am in Christ. In other words, I am not defined by a title. But, over time, I realized real value comes from who I am and how I value others.  The skills, insight or talents I bring to a position operate at their best when they are matched with the skills and talents of other members on a team. Without the interaction of others, the team will not reach the level of its potential.

Time marched on. I continued the focus on encouragement. I watched for places where I could support others and help them overcome challenges. I stepped into gaps as they appeared until someone was able to take that role.

Taking on what was in front of me as it came meant the little things mattered.  It was not “leadership” in the normal sense of the word.  So, imagine my shock when several different people told me how much they considered me a “leader” in this group! You could have knocked me over with a spoon. I was surprised as I never really considered the impact encouragement would have!

All I had done was intentionally look for those who needed encouragement, direction or understanding in the group. God pointed out who needed an encouraging word or a boost and followed through. Not rocket science, just intentionality. How could my actions create such a strong image of leadership in someone’s mind?  How could a focus on encouragement in a group impact a life to that degree?

As I considered this with the Lord, I began to unpack the idea of leading from among. I realize its effectiveness and that leadership is not about a title you fill. It is about how you interact with and support others.

The active focus in this area of my life created a unifying force within the group, drawing them together, building community and supporting growth of individuals who were learning to minister and grow their gifts. No, I was not the only one working toward unity. But, the encouragement I offered created a place of safety for others to stretch beyond what was comfortable, knowing the only failure came in not trying. Correction was offered sparingly, as encouragement created a powerful force of redirection that drew others in the group toward their best. By default, what was not their best was left behind.

Encouraging others also created a tag team ministry. We learned to flow in and out, as one person stepped forward, another stepped back. This was almost an unconscious exchange of roles and visibility. It allowed for the person with the specific gift needed in that moment to step forward, release what God placed on their heart and step back so someone else could do the same thing. This created a fluidity of seamless interaction, allowing one to shore the other up and interact in a perfect flow.

Territorialism decreased as feelings of belonging increased. Posturing was not needed or necessary, as all began to realize the value and positive addition each was to the team. And, that unity allowed God’s presence to flow into the hearts of those receiving ministry. They were touched in ways never imagined. Not because of any one person, not because of a specific leader, but because team opened the way for more of Him.

Consider your different areas of influence:
Where can you lead from among?