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student ministry, youth ministry, adult volunteers

Serving with Quirky Leaders

By Leneita Fix March 27, 2014

We’re excited to announce that Leneita Fix will be contributing regularly to LeaderTreks’ blog. Be sure to check back frequently to read her hard-earned wisdom and insight into student ministry leadership. In this post, she describes some of the odd leaders you may find yourself serving with. How can you thrive with these quirky people as your leaders? And might you be a quirky leader, too? 

–Kyle Rohane, Editor at LeaderTreks

Working for a great leader can be exhilarating. When we feel totally supported it’s easy to succeed. However, when we work for someone with a leadership “quirk” it’s easier to point fingers and complain than to attempt to understand them.

It’s been said that the church was a great place to serve until all the people showed up. It’s true—working for people with peculiar leadership styles can be tricky. But with prayer and a little “know how” it doesn’t have to be.

Here are three challenging leadership styles I have had to navigate:

1. The “Meet Me at the Finish Line” Leader 

These leaders are classic visionaries. They are exciting to work for because they are taking the world for Jesus and are inviting us along for the ride. Their charisma is infectious, and you can’t help but get caught up in the frenzy of their evangelism.

But their method is practically non-existent. Their attitude says, “I don’t care how you get to the finish line; just show up.” Often, their followers are left with little direction, wondering what exactly they are supposed to be “finishing.”

If you need regular guidance, these can be difficult people to work for. They move so fast with so few boundaries that some of us struggle to keep up. And when we don’t meet them at the finish line, they can get frustrated.

When working for this type of leader, be sure to check in often and clarify expectations. Don’t be afraid to over-communicate what you are doing and why. These leaders know exactly what they want the end to look like, but the route to get there is hazy. Typically, they only figure out that process by hearing things they don’t want in their ministry.

2. The “Stuck in the Minutia” Leader

This leader is the opposite of the one above: we know where the ministry is going and precisely how to get there. Don’t worry about getting lost—there are probably step-by-step manuals laid out for everything. For those who have worked without direction in the past, it can feel like a breath of fresh air to work with someone with so much clarity.

Of course the problem is, they have their fingers in every tiny detail. They can get so caught up in perfecting the process that they lose sight of the finish line.

In reality, these leaders probably don’t want to know all the details, even if it seems like they do. Be clear about what they do need to know, and keep them updated on that. Follow the processes they set for you. As long as you do what they ask, don’t feel afraid to try something new. Our tendency can be to bring them in on every discussion because we think they’ll be mad if we don’t. But don’t be afraid to walk in the role they placed you in. They will help you adjust if you start moving off-track

3. The “Can’t Prioritize” Leader

This leader is often highly relational and creative. They love to find the perfect illustration for their sermon on Sunday—even if it takes hours. You might notice that they have a surge of involvement and direction, followed by a lull. When they are “on,” they get us energized about the people we’re impacting. But when they’re “off,” it’s another story.

Unfortunately, working for this leader can feel like being stuck in stop-and-go traffic. We’re cruising along, and suddenly they make a sharp turn. So we get lost.

These leaders mean well. They genuinely think they can “do it all.” They might keep coming to you with new tasks, each of which is “vital” to complete. Don’t be afraid to say, “I can do this new task, but I’ll have to drop something else. What should go?” Or you can ask, “Out of my list of ten tasks, what are the top three you want me to complete?” It is not your role to help them prioritize, but you can take steps to discover their priorities for you.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

If you remember only one thing about these quirky leadership styles, remember that your senior pastors or directors always deserve your respect. The more you choose to support them and “learn” them, the better leaders they can become.

And before you start labeling your director’s leadership style, you might consider whether or not you fit into any of these categories. As you learn about your own leadership quirks, you might find that you’ll become a better follower, too.

 

About the Author

Leneita Fix

Leneita Fix co-founded Frontline Urban Resources with Jeffrey Wallace  to equip, coach, and speak into the lives of those working with families living in a “survival mode” mentality. They refer to this thinking as the “new urban.” Combined, they carry almost four decades of experience in the family ministry setting, most of it in traditional urban ministry. However each…  Read More