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Leadership is About Empowering not Controlling

Posted: September 23, 2015 by Rob Voyle

The revised common lectionary Gospel Lesson for this Sunday has the Disciples wanting to control who gets to do ministry in Jesus' name just as Joshua son of Nun wanted Moses to stop Eldad and Medad to stop prophesying. Jesus response was essentially the same as Moses.

"Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!"

One of the core tasks of leadership is to empower others to act, it is not to control who acts.
Turf wars seem rampant in our churches and society.

"No you can't do that." Is the common refrain as people grasp control, rather than leaders response.

"What do we need to do to empower you to do that."

One of the last things Jesus did before the ascension was to give away his power to forgive. We have his total backing. Whom ever we forgive will be forgiven in heaven. I have this little cartoon image in my head of the Father and Jesus, in total shock and disbelief: "Did you see who Rob just forgave, how could he do such a thing!" Fortunately that cartoon will only be a cartoon and never a reality. We have been empowered and Jesus has our back.

It is interesting to ponder that Catholics and my own Episcopal tradition want to control that power and limit it to priests, and I hear the Spirit whisper: "Would that you all were in the world forgiving people their sins." I could also digress and say that Protestants also get this wrong by saying only God forgives when Jesus clearly empowered us to be in the world forgiving people.

But I digress and am more interested in the task of leaders giving away their power to empower others. Congregations who are always pondering over who is in control will always have power conflicts, and these conflicts will never be resolved by creating models of governance that describes who is in power.

The only way to resolve the issue is to change the fundamental question from:

• Who is in control/power?


• How do we share power to empower people for ministry in our community?

Take a moment and think of who you depend on for your success. (Note: If you are not dependent on others for your success you are not leading anyone.)

How do you empower those who you depend on?
How do you resource them to fulfill their ministry and the ministry of the community?


How is it working?

If it isn't working you may need to change your empowerment strategy. Different people need different resources to be empowered. Some need a lot of "hands on" empowering, while others need a "hands off" form of empowerment.

Jesus never relied on a "one size fits all" mentality when leading or engaging with others. Likewise competent leaders need to know their followers and what they specifically need to be empowered to perform at their best. So one of the things you may need to do when giving someone a task is to ask them:

What will you need to be successful?

In the Appreciative Leadership for Transformation training program we will be looking at empowering others to act as one the five core leadership competencies for effective congregation ministry. The other four competencies are:

• Inspiring a shared vision
• Challenging the way
• Encouraging the heart
• Modeling the way

I wish you great joy in giving away your power and enabling others to act

Rob Voyle
Director, Clergy Leadership Institute

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About the Author

Rob Voyle

Rob Voyle

The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle is a leader in the development and use of appreciative inquiry in church and coaching settings.

Rob's Approach to Training

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