Empowerment Leadership Model for Small Groups, Teams, & Families
How to Lead the Group, Team or Family as a Whole, and Create a Dynamic Social Organism
Note: Whenever "group" or "team" is used, it can mean "group", "team", or "family".
To develop a highly functional group from a collection of people gathered to accomplish an important purpose, the leader has to be focused on the group as a whole. This means not being focused on the individual members.
The group leader wants to develop a highly productive social organism (group, team, committee, or family). His help must be directed to the group, including helping the group direct help to group members for effective pursuit of the group's purpose.
In so doing, the effective and empowering leader usually talks to the group, seldom to individuals. Individuals are addressed by the members of the group, often multiple members working together to bring out the best in that individual for the group's work toward accomplishment of the purpose.
Example One: Small Group
Let's contrast the leadership of individuals alone, the leadership of individuals in a group, and the leadership of a group.
Here's the situation I will apply to these three types of leadership.
An individual is having trouble praying and trusting God. This individual asks for an explanation of Proverbs 3:5, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."
Leadership of Individuals, One-on-One:
The leader provides an explanation and guidance. The individual gets personal attention from one person, an authority figure, and feels cared for, but remains dependent. The individual gets a fairly good explanation, perhaps illustrated by one person's life with God.
The leader feels important and useful. He or she has helped someone for the Lord.
Leadership of Individuals in a Group:
All too often the scenario is the same as above. Occasionally one or two group members enter into the explanation of Proverbs 3:5, but they do not often take responsibility for the outcome because the leader has assumed such responsibility and authority.
Other group members are observers most of the time. They gain some benefit from the insights the leader communicates to the individual. But all remain dependent upon the leader.
Leadership of a Group:
The leader gives the whole job to the group, possibly saying something to the group like, "Can you help Joe with his question and help him grow in his trust of God?"
All group members grapple with the problem. They go about the task of helping, not only during the one meeting, but over time, until the individual trusts God sufficiently and becomes active in prayer. The leader shares only that small amount of information the group cannot eventually come to. But the leader is quite active in helping the group reach its maximum helpfulness, just not so much in helping with the specific problem.
Each group member serves Jesus Christ and ministers in His name. No one feels dependent upon the leader to assume the duties of ministry to one another. Every group member "leads"; some see their potential for leadership; all sense their capability in God's service. At the same time the group members are helping one another, each group member struggles with his or her own issues concerning trusting God.
The individual who asked the question feels important and cared for by many people, not just, but including, the leader who keeps the group in motion. The individual does not feel inferior to other believers because many group members reveal their own struggles to trust God.
The individual gets many explanations of the verse, each from a slightly different perspective. He is able to find the explanation that most closely fits his doubts. The individual gets to see many illustrations of God's trustworthiness from the various group members' lives with God through the years.
The group leader really feels important, not because of accolades he or she receives from the group, but because of the success he has helped the group achieve. He or she has helped the group help every single group member to grow in trusting God and in prayer. By leading the group as a group, the leader has also given the group and its members help in other areas. These areas would not have come up if the group members were merely following the leader's agenda.
So, you can see that leading a group is a completely different paradigm than leading individuals -- with far more good results.
The successful group leader has the group in mind, talks to the group almost all of the time (only occasionally to individuals), analyzes how the group or committee or group is developing and what it needs to do next to go further, gives the group work to do, and helps with a host of other group-centered concerns.
Example Two: Team
Again, let's contrast the leadership of individuals alone, the leadership of individuals as a collection of people just doing their individual jobs, and the leadership of a team.
Here's the situation I will apply to the three types of team leadership.
An individual is having trouble making some necessary contacts. For this example let's say that the contacts are for recruiting leaders for various church programs.
Leadership of Individuals, One-on-One:
The team leader/supervisor meets with the person for individual supervision and asks what the problem is and gives useful advice. The individual gets personal attention from one person, an authority figure, and feels helped. The individual gets good advice from one person's experience in the field, but remains dependent.
The team leader/supervisor feels important and useful. He or she has helped someone.
Leadership of Individuals as a Collectivity:
All too often the scenario is the same as above -- just with an audience. The leader brings the problem up in what is called a team meeting and gives his or her solution. Those in attendance listen half-heartedly because it is not their problem. The one who has the problem appreciates the advice. A nonverbal communication goes out that they are not to help one another figure things out or get one another's help. That is because the leader did not allow the others to help the individual with the problem. The unspoken assumption will be that to help someone might be to step on the leader's toes.
Other team members are observers most of the time. Sometimes the problem addressed and the advice given can help them also. But all remain dependent upon the leader.
Leadership of a Team:
The team leader gives the whole job to the team, possibly saying something to the team like, "Joe is having trouble making some of his leadership recruitment calls. I am sure he can use a little help from the rest of you."
All team members grapple with the problem. They go about the task of helping, not only during the one meeting, but over time, until Joe becomes very good at making the contacts he needs to for the team to be successful at its purpose. The leader shares only that small amount of information the team cannot eventually come to. But the leader is quite active in helping the team reach its maximum helpfulness.
Each team member helps. No one feels dependent upon the leader to assume the duties of helping one another. Every team member "leads"; some see their potential for leadership; all sense their capability. At the same time the team members are helping one another, each team member will grow in his or her own leadership recruitment skills.
The individual who had the problem feels important and cared for by many people, not just, but including, the leader who keeps the team in motion. The individual does not feel inferior to the others because some of the other team members reveal their own struggles.
The individual gets many different ways to think about and make calls on people, each idea or method from a slightly different perspective. He is able to find the method most comfortable for him.
The team leader really feels important, not because of accolades he or she receives from the team, but because of the success he has helped the team achieve. He or she has helped the team help a team member grow in his job skills. By leading the team as a team, the leader has also given the team and its members help in other areas, such as encouraging one another, analyzing a particular problem, and, hopefully, working together synergistically. These areas would not have come up if the team members were merely listening to the leader for a few minutes.
So, you can see that leading a team is a completely different paradigm than leading individuals -- with far more good results.
The successful team leader has the team in mind, talks to the team almost all of the time (only occasionally to individuals), analyzes how the team is developing and what it needs to do next to go further, gives the team work to do, and helps with a host of other team-centered concerns.
Example Three: Family
A cooperative and interdependent family will not usually come into being if a parent centers most of his or her attention on individual kids when part or all of the family is together. A collection of people being herded in the same direction will not prosper and grow into the powerful family it could be as a true group.
This may sound a little theoretical, but let's develop the point. A strong family will develop with these techniques. This kind of family enables individual members to function and grow by leaps and bounds more than other family leadership models. And the family will go on to accomplish surprising results.
Please read the following as applying when the family is gathered together, either everybody or a group of at least one parent and one kid.
Leading the family as a group is a completely different paradigm than merely raising kids one-by-one, ignoring the family as a social unit.
Think of the coach of a football team contrasted with the quarterback coach. The first must focus on how the various individual members of the team relate to each other, work together, carry out the plays, etc. The quarterback coach is concerned with very different things: individual performance, individual morale, etc. Parents must do both. It is done over time. But what usually happens is that parents just operate like quarterback coaches, helping one individual at a time and leaving out teaching their families to work together and help one another.
Or think of an orchestra conductor who must be concerned that each musician is playing his or her part and that the whole orchestra is in harmony. The flute instructor, on the other hand, is focused on the individual flute player – just one part of the orchestra. Parents must be both the conductor and the instructor – the conductor when the family is together (what is often not done) and an instructor when with individual children.
Therefore, the successful parent has the family in mind, talks to the family as a whole often, analyzes how the family is developing and what it needs to do together to go further, gives the family work to do, and helps with a host of other family-centered concerns.
Look at three separate ways of handling this family situation:
A child in the family needs to do better in school.
Leadership of Individuals, One-on-One:
In the usual approach, a parent talks to the child who needs to do better. All of the other children in the family usually know that the brother or sister is doing poorly, but they are not brought into the process. Often the reason is to prevent embarrassment. But the other kids know – and they might not be acting kind behind the parents’ backs. In this usual approach, almost all communication is between the parent(s) and the child, with all too often occasional parental "side comments" to other children. This approach rarely "protects" the child doing poorly from sibling cruelty. What it does do is prevent the other children from committing to be of help and support for the child who will be trying to do better. Many other things might be being hindered as well, such as, for example, finding out some of the things that might be affecting school performance. The other children might know some of the reasons for poor school behavior, like teasing at school.
Leadership of Individuals in the Family:
A second approach is where a parent has the helpful discussion with the child while the other children are listening. This might seem like involving the family, but it really is not. It is a method that acquires no true commitment on the parts of the other family members to help rather than hinder the brother or sister improving in school.
Leadership of a Family:
This empowering model of family leadership has many advantages you might not have considered. In this model the parent focuses on the family as the entity he or she is helping. This is because it is the whole family that can do the best job in helping a member of the family do better in school. (I know. We did this when one of our daughters was doing poorly in school.)
In the empowerment model, the parent talks to the family as a whole to help everyone want to work together to help the brother or sister who is doing poorly in school. Then the parent focuses on helping the family do all the things necessary to help the brother or sister bring up school grades. The children and parent(s) working together can pool their ideas and efforts. The family would thus decide how each family member would help, what actions and attitudes would be truly helpful, what consequences should follow if any family member knowingly did something harmful to the process, which family members should spend extra time with the person, and a host of other things that would not occur in either of the first two approaches.
And think of all the other benefits in the way of building the family and growth in individual family members! With the parent's focus on the family, the members will make decisions together, work together to accomplish the family purpose, resolve barriers that block progress, etc. Both the individuals AND the family will grow and become stronger and more capable.
This empowering model of family leadership expects a lot of a family and is very affirming. It is not the typical, "let's see how comfortable we can make the family." Instead, it is more like saying, "let's show the family members how much the family can accomplish by working together."
Next, we will look at the importance of having a strong group purpose.