Transforming Church Team Blog
resourcing leaders…reenvisioning the future

Shared Leadership: A Wilderness Experience (Part 2)

Scott Kronlund, Senior Consultant

Scott Kronlund

 How, then, did Moses establish his model of shared leadership?  Although the Scriptures are silent at this point, I’m sure that this must have been a very interesting elders’ meeting.  God must have been kidding when He talked about becoming a “kingdom of priests”, right?  As leaders, they had already dealt with a grumbling group of people, first over food and then over water.  In fact, many of the Israelites were readily willing to return to Egypt as slaves for the sake of nice pot of stew.  How would these people ever be transformed into a “holy nation”? 

Nonetheless, being driven by the mission set before them by God himself, Moses and the elders began to explore the attitudinal and behavioral changes that would be required during this time of adaptive change.  Undoubtedly, these discussions caused anxiety levels to rise among the group and resulted in conflict.  However, by creating a safe “holding environment” for these challenging discussions, Moses was able to provide for open and honest dialogue while keeping the focus on the issues at hand and moderating the anxiety.  As a result, Moses was able to come away with a resounding “yes” from the elders which he was able to take directly back to God.

 What, then, are some of the key benefits of effective shared leadership?  In order to get a “first hand” answer this question, I recently had the opportunity to interview Paul Bethke, Executive Director of Concordia Lutheran School in Tacoma, WA, who has been working with TAG Consulting for the past two years to develop a comprehensive system of shared leadership within his school.  Here are some of the benefits he described to me:

Enhanced organizational knowledge and learning: First of all, the knowledge base of the organization is broadened.  After all, no one leader can possibly know everything.  Furthermore, increasing the knowledge base requires intentionally seeking input from the community at-large, thus allowing all to share in ongoing organizational learning. 

 Creation of mutual accountability: Effective shared leadership also creates an atmosphere of mutual accountability among the leadership team as well as within the organization as a whole.  Such accountability is created and sustained when competencies and behavioral boundaries are established and reinforced by the team itself.  As a result, the team becomes self-governing and the need to one, all-important, authority figure is greatly diminished.  Now, as part of a larger system of “team”, all are empowered to lovingly confront unhealthy attitudes and behaviors independent of the “official” title that one may carry.  On the other hand, unsupportive individuals quickly discover that they find no place to hide and must either adapt or potentially not survive. 

 Enhanced levels of trust:  As a result of the mutual accountability now present, an increased level of trust begins to emerge on the team as a result of working together and sharing experiences in a new way.  Trust itself becomes seen more as an “investment” to be made by individual team members rather than a passive “reward” to be earned over time.

 Mentorship for emerging leaders:  Next, by working in an environment of mutual accountability and trust, everyone involved begins to view themselves as actual “leaders”, again somewhat independent of their particular position within the organization.  In fact, all are challenged and empowered to lead.  The ultimate benefit is the creation of a seamless leadership legacy that will transcend whoever’s “at the top.”  In fact, the personal attributes of the positional leaders (e.g. charisma, persuasiveness, directedness, etc.) actually become less important over time.

 Enhanced spirit of organizational unity:  This is the ultimate benefit of a system of truly shared leadership.  What starts at the leadership level begins to spread throughout the organization and out to all who are touched by the organization.  As the old adage says, “a rising tide raises all ships.”

Let’s close by examining how things turned out for Moses and the elders of Israel following their meeting.  Scriptures tell us that God, through Moses, invited the people to meet with Him at Mount Sinai.  Having empowered the elders, three days later Moses “led the people out of the camp to meet with God…” (Exodus 19: 17, NIV).  What an awesome experience that must have been to be in the very presence of God!  United in purpose and empowered by leaders, the people prepared themselves to receive the details of God’s calling on them as His “chosen people.”  On this day, everything just seemed to click. 

 However, we, like Moses, all know just how fragile shared leadership can be to create and sustain.  But, in the end, is it worth the effort and struggle required?  Let’s look to Moses for the answer.  Having climbed Mount Nebo in anticipation of his death, Moses had the opportunity to look out over the valley below and hear these words from God: “This is the land that I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes…” (Deuteronomy 34: 4, NIV). I believe that we share this same desire to hear God’s words of reward: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25: 21, NIV).  And shared leadership can help us get there….


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