I am currently in India for an emerging leader training. We have just completed 12 days of some great time observing and processing through an indigenous house church movement called Operation Agape. We have also tried to discern the leadership and ministry principles that we can bring back to Western Europe for greater fruitfulness.
In the midst of one of our discussion times, the question arose of how to lead up and lead down in a proper way. I am offering two critical components in both directions for any leader seeking to properly lead.
To lead up-meaning to raise issues and concerns with those in authority over you-you must pursue your superiors communicating trust and with an attitude of seeking greater understanding. It is easy to think you see a problem and go rant in a corner. Or worse still, rant to your fellow team mates in a way that actually disparages the leaders over you. You must first discern if your concern is worthy of seeking a point of discussion with those above you. But if you feel the concern is big enough, then you must go in communicating your belief in the leaders above you as God’s ordained authority in your life. They do have a different perspective than you about the whole of the mission. So communicate your belief in them. This will create space for your concerns being heard. Then you must also go in communicating understanding. This means you enter humbly, realizing that you don’t see the whole picture, but would still like to offer your opinions. Go in prepared as best you can. Understand the problem you see and what you think the issues are behind the problem. Offer possible solutions. Ask for a different perspective that you might see things more clearly. All of this will help to create space, validation, and the opportunity for creative solutions.
In leading down, as the leader, you have the responsibility to frame problems and opportunities for your team. Then you must allow them to speak in to the “how” of solving these issues. Be sure that you have chosen the most critical issues for team involvement. Be sure you actually let your team speak into the issues and offer solutions. Act on their advice. This will create ownership and empowerment-and will lead to better solutions.
Create space to be heard from those above you. Create ownership and empowerment for those below you.