People long to be connected to something, and our hope should extend towards the type of connection that is positive and leads hearts closer to the Holy Spirit. As a leader, those who serve on your teams want to connect with you.
One aspect of leadership that I believe is vital to redeeming broken teams is transparency and authenticity. I am going to use the word vulnerability as an umbrella for these two terms, because, to be truly transparent and authentic, you must learn how to be vulnerable.
Vulnerability, by definition, means that you
“make yourself capable of or susceptible to being wounded; you make yourself open to moral attack, criticism and even temptation.”
Who would say, “Sign me up for that?”
Vulnerability is hard, but the rewards in creating such incredible authenticity within your teams are worth the risk of heartbreak and criticism. Being vulnerable with your team does not diminish your authority as the leader. Rather, your team will lean into you, knowing they can better identify with you.
What the Bible Says
Paul and Barnabas:
Paul, then called Saul, met Barnabas sometime after his conversion. In Acts 9:27, Barnabas is the one who brings Paul to the apostles to let them know of his conversion. In my mind, I imagine that a fierce friendship began between Paul and Barnabas because they end up working together in ministry, along with John Mark from Acts 12:25-the end of Acts 15. John Mark had left Paul and Barnabas before their departure from Paphos to Antioch.
In Acts 15:36-41, we see a deterioration in the relationship between Paul and Barnabas. Barnabas, who comes across as more of a relational leader, wants to help redeem John Mark back into the fold. Paul, who is more of a driving leader, is ready to move on. From the moment of Paul’s conversion, it appears that he is most concerned about getting the job done. Barnabas, on the other hand, doesn’t want to let a lost sheep get away. Neither of these two amazing men is wrong, but their approach is different, which leads to a “sharp disagreement” after which they separate from one another. Paul chooses to do ministry with Silas. Barnabas sticks with John Mark.
So, as it appears on the pages of Scripture, we would assume that Barnabas is the vulnerable, relational leader. BUT Paul shows his own brand of vulnerability when he writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:15-16:
“This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.”
Vulnerability looks different to different personality types. Consider the DISC profile. For people who are “Influential” or “Steady,” vulnerability may look more emotional. A win in being vulnerable may mean an incredible emotional high and vice versa. Vulnerability for leaders who are “Dominant” or “Conscientious,” may look like being able to admit performance failures. Since many people may rank high in two different profiles, you can see how vulnerability in each individual may look different.
Take a moment to think about your DISC profile. Where do you lie on the spectrum? Are you more of a Paul or a Barnabas?
How about your people? Think about the people on your team that need you to be a Paul to them and tell them to get their big boy/girl pants on. And then think of those people who need to be taken out to coffee for 30 minutes to have some quality time with you.
The primary way we get to the bottom of the whos, whats, and whys of our dysfunctional team is through engaging in crucial conversations. Let’s say one of your team members is disengaged suddenly. Have you reached out? If you genuinely know this person and that this change is uncharacteristic of their typical behavior, it is your responsibility to ask some hard questions. Are his/her finances struggling? Perhaps his/her marriage is rocky, or the kids are going crazy. Maybe he/she has lost sight of the vision or goal and needs a reminder or needs to feel cared for and appreciated.
Ask yourself, “Do I know my team members’ dreams and goals?” Maybe the team is dysfunctional because the team member isn’t actually in the correct role. After working through that, encourage and support your team member on their journey, even if it means they leave your team. Having a person leave your team to follow their own God-given goals and dreams is a win! Also, for a team member to learn how to work in a more significant way within their own calling and capacity is a win!
An important thing to consider when undertaking these crucial conversations is “speaking the truth in love.” Ephesians 4 says it this way:
“Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (verses 14-15).
From this passage, we learn that speaking the truth in love
- Allows us to grow up and be more like Christ.
- Allows all the pieces and parts of a team to work properly so that the body builds itself up in love.
This is why, when we are leading through conflict, it all comes down to love! Jesus was intentional about choosing His twelve disciples. For three years, He taught them all that they would need to know to share His Good News with the whole world. They asked some really dumb questions, or so it may seem to us now having the Bible in our hands. Jesus remained patient, just as he does with us. Jesus nurtured and genuinely loved His twelve, even the one who betrayed Him! He is the ultimate leader in His vulnerability and love. So remember this:
Being intentional about learning more about each of your team members = love
Letting our vulnerability show = love
Discipling your team = love
Understanding generations that are not your own = love
Speaking the truth in love = love
I would challenge you all to think about and acknowledge how lost we are without love. If we can’t lead our teams with authentic, genuine love, then, perhaps, we have no business at all leading our team. And of course, I say that to you…in love.