Ministry Style Helps Define the Type of Leader You Are

Your ministry style or leadership style in Christian work will go a long way in determining what leadership role you play in the ministry. Some, unfortunately, do not even consider their leadership style before taking a position. They should.

A minister's leadership style affects his compatibility with those to whom he ministers. In other words, it will make a big difference in whether or not the ministry team or the congregation will actually follow him.

While studying Psychology at theUniversity of Arkansas (OK, I was mostly having fun and playing football...GO HOGS!), I ran across the classic study of Kurt Lewin on the styles of leadership.

He and his colleagues did leadership decision experiments in 1939 and identified three different styles of leadership, mostly involving decision-making.

Though some leadership experts have identified other leadership and ministry styles, some of which we may discuss, I think these three are still the major styles of leadership, even in the ministry.

Autocratic (Authoritarian Leadership)

In the autocratic style, the leader makes decisions without consulting with others. The decision is made without any form of consultation. In Lewin's experiments, he found that this caused the greatest level of discontent.

An autocratic style works when there is no need for input on the decision, where the decision would not change as a result of input, and where the motivation of people to carry out subsequent actions would not be affected whether they were or were not involved in the decision-making.

Democratic (Participative Leadership)

In the democratic style, the leader involves the people in the decision-making, although the process for the final decision may vary from the leader having the final say to them facilitating a consensus in the group.

Democratic decision-making is usually appreciated by the people, especially if they have been used to autocratic decisions with which they disagreed. It can be problematic when there are a wide range of opinions and there is no clear way of reaching an equitable final decision.

Laissez-Faire (Delegative Leadership)

The laissez-faire style is to minimize the leader's involvement in decision-making, and hence allowing people to make their own decisions, although they may still be responsible for the outcome.

Laissez-faire works best when people are capable and motivated in making their own decisions, and where there is no requirement for a central coordination. An example would be sharing resources across a range of different people and groups.

In Lewin's experiments, he discovered that the most effective style was Democratic. Excessive autocratic styles led to revolution. While under a Laissez-faire approach, people were not coherent in their work and did not exert the energy that they did when being actively led.

Personally, I think that each leader has a predominate ministry style, but the good leader learns to use all of the styles, depending on the group and circumstances.

Of course, his longterm ministry style should match the longterm situation and the followers. But for temporary leadership roles, we should learn to adapt to the project and the people before us.

Probably the most prominent Christian leadership expert today is John Maxwell. He has written some excellent leadership books that I recommend highly.

Some of these include, "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership," "The 21 Indisputable Qualities of a Leader," "Developing the Leader Within You," "360 Degree Leader," and "The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork."

He also has some free leadership assessment tests on his web site that you can take. At least take the self-evaluation quiz at the bottom of his assessment page. It measures your relationship, equipping, attitude, and leadership skills.

These qualities are very important for any kind of leadership role and especially for the ministry.


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