Leadership guru, Michael Sessions, identified four relationship-oriented behaviours of effective leaders. The first behaviour involves support. These individuals offer support through friendliness, careful thought to the well-being of others and concern for the needs and feelings of others. Through this behaviour “they win loyalty, cooperation and support from those being led.”
Second, effective leaders are also “actively involved in developing the skills and confidence of others” so that others see increased skills, adjust to new responsibilities and advance in their career. Coaching and mentoring are key ways this is done. He says “coaching is a technique used to help others explore their potential, interests, roadblocks, challenges, opportunities, and goals.” The coach supports an individual to find their own wisdom and way forward. Mentors share knowledge and wisdom as masters of the journey and point a mentee in the direction they should go.
Third, effective leaders recognize others through praise, appreciation, giving credit where it is due and rewarding achievement. Silence from leaders can be crushing to the spirit of someone who looks to them for encouragement. Even a quick note or email of recognition can go a long way in boosting morale and productivity. Public praise is best. Rebuke is always done in private.
Fourth, verbal and written communication that is clear in sharing the plan, the direction needed, and the expectations involved helps set others up for success. Logical and factual evidence to support the why of what is happening builds unity and momentum for the team. Sufficient resources, clear action, and strong support are all part of this.
Session was offering his insights to executives in the construction industry but these insights are also significant to those involved in missions, ministry and faith institutions where teams are involved.
Unfortunately, the one place seasoned leaders may forget is the team in their own homes. In a survey I took last month of executive denominational, charity and mission leaders who were asked to identify the top five reasons why the marital relationship of seasoned leaders might break down, a few key things floated to the surface across the board:
Blurred boundaries and inappropriate relationships with the opposite sex;
Poor time management and scheduling priorities;
Irregular date nights and no initiated romance.
Not all the leaders surveyed chose these five, but they were flagged more often than nought for missions, ministries, non-profits and churches alike. As a counselor (PhD) and former pastor, I can concur with the significant impact these can have on marriages. Headlines confirm this as well.
Unfortunately, there are more that have been identified by key leaders who have had to deal with the fallout in their denomination, their mission, their charity, their friendships or their family experience. Here are a sampling of what made the list: No shared interest outside of work; no significant rest, recreation or holiday time together; hypocritical lifestyle between work and home; no open conversations about sexuality; absence of outside accountability partners; sense of one being more spiritual; unresolved conflicts; unmet expectations of spouse or work authorities; feeling second class; absenteeism of partner from special events; unresolved trauma.
Now, imagine if a seasoned leader practiced the four relationship building traits (advocated by Sessions among construction executives). What might happen in the homes of our top leaders and in the communities and teams they care for? Sessions points out the crucial role of coaches who come alongside members to draw out their wisdom and commitment to their team.
As a seasoned leader of over 40 years in ministry (missions, church and non-profits) I am realizing the value of my own coach, Steve Sundby, as he prompts me toward the establishment of my own coaching business for seasoned leaders in their marriage relationships. (see 1heartcoaching.com [coming soon] and twostepcoaching.ca).
It would be a shame if a seasoned leader rose to acclaim for his/her behaviours in supporting, developing, recognizing and effectively communicating with those he/she managed and fell short on the most important relationship at home.
Leaders aren’t the only ones who long for thriving relationships. We all long for a heart where we have a soft oasis, a haven away from stress, a place of trust and reassurance, a place of emotional connection, a bastion of encouragement and hope, a heart where we feel seen, heard and understood. We long for someone with whom we matter and with whom we can be authentic. We value vulnerability, pleasure, fun, healing and a place to process our heavy burdens. We desperately need someone to share faith with.
Sometimes, we don’t know how to make it happen in the middle of everything else that weighs us down. A coach can help. Research shows that 25 percent of ministry marriages face significant struggles as partners deal with busyness, demands and distractions. Rather than being paralyzed by guilt, resentment and temptation, we believe a thriving relationship with your best friend – where you can’t wait to be home – is something worth working for. All ministry couples should discover the wonder of all they can be together.