Leadership Temperament

by Tim Shapiro

Leadership is leading people to the place they’d go if they only knew how. This is the definition of leadership I learned from my friend Dr. James Rafferty.

Such leadership happens in the small exchanges between people in hallways, on the phone or as the work day ends. Congregational leadership happens in these subtle connections as much or more than in grand pronouncements about mission and vision.

We’ve trained clergy to be active listeners. We’ve taught clergy and laity the importance of collaboration. Our clergy and lay leaders know to accept many points of views.

Relational and directive
Sometimes the demands of congregational life require leadership to be open and highly relational. On other occasions, congregational life requires leadership to be more directive.

Yes and no
Yes, in some instances, it is important that a clergy person’s “yes” be “yes” and his or her “no” be “no.” But it is important to remember: a clergy person with a non-directive, sensitive temperament can be trained to be more directive and resilient more easily than a person with a direct, tough temperament can be coached to be more non-directive and sensitive.

What kind of temperament do you have?
More directive? Or more non-directive? Either way you will need to exercise the other muscle.

If you are more non-directive, look for those who will nudge you to be more clear and straightforward when the situation demands that. If you are more directive, look for people who will stay after you to work with a lighter touch, particularly when dealing with relationships. This will be hard for you, but you can do it.
Remember, you are helping people go where they want to go if they only knew how.

Here are links to two fine books on leadership: Boundaries for Leaders helps you exercise your more directive muscle. Leadership and Listening helps you exercise a temperament of openness.

About the Contributor

Tim Shapiro

Tim Shapiro is the Indianapolis Center’s president. He began serving the Center in 2003 after 18 years in pastoral ministry. For 14 years, Tim served Westminster Presbyterian Church in Xenia, Ohio. Prior to his pastorate at Westminster, he was pastor of Bethlehem Presbyterian Church in Logansport, Indiana. He holds degrees from Purdue University and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Tim’s interest in how congregations learn to do new things is represented in his book How Your Congregation LearnsAfter his extensive work on the Center’s Sacred Space initiative, Tim co-authored the book Holy Places: Matching Sacred Space with Mission and MessageHe has also authored several articles, including Applying Positive Deviance and The Congregation of Theological Coherence.

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