Every time there is a transition in an organization’s staff there is a cultural shift that follows, especially if that transition is among senior level staff. Thankfully, you don’t have to be surprised by this shift and the Lord has already given you and your team what you need to lead well through it!
Before diving in, let’s define culture. Culture is a combination of what we create and what we allow as leaders. (Craig Groeschel) This combination, over time, defines an organization and says “This is how we do things here.”
What should we expect during this season of shift? How can we prepare for and walk well as a team and organization going forward?
There are several Major Shifts that take place around a leadership transition…
Every leader is uniquely gifted by the Holy Spirit. They are simply different than other leaders that may have filled the same or similar roles. In addition, their personality, communication style, leadership strategy and more are different. This is just as God designed it. Their gifting, along with other senior level leaders, will find it’s way into the leadership culture and, in time, the greater culture of the church.
A healthy culture is simply made up of healthy relationships working in harmony towards a goal. And, how and who a leader relates to others is as different as each God-given personality. Discovering and understanding our shared gifts and personalities will be an important venture into knowing ourselves and one another better relationally.
Who a leader relates to on a more personal level will be different. Not better, not worse. Simply, different. We all have a small circle of interpersonal relationships we can maintain in a healthy way. In other words, close friends. This is just how God designed it.
Jesus had 12 disciples, hung out with 3 of them a little closer (Peter, James and John) and had 1 best friend (John). This is neither right nor wrong, just as it was with the previous leader. We simply need to recognize and flow with this as it naturally develops.
The new leader will gravitate to a different circle, although every leader should prioritize their staff and lead team (Pastoral Staff, Elders, Team Leaders, etc). I recommend they become like family!
The Holy Spirit partners with leaders to communicate and carry out a unique vision for seasons of life and ministry. This big picture reality should also be both anticipated and embraced.
The new leader should seek to partner with the broader leadership team to pray, process, promote and walk in the new vision as the Spirit reveals it through them and the team they are privileged to lead with.
Values simply define HOW we do what we do (and don’t). No surprise here… different leaders hold to a different set and level of values. However, there are some values that organizations of greater influence all have in common. When values are clear and defined over time, a culture thrives. When values are not clear, a culture suffers, insider RELATIONSHIPS suffer and with it, influence with outsiders.
It will be very important to pray and process through the values of the incoming leader in partnership with the lead team, and then live them out and promote them until they become part of the culture at the DNA level. Over time, these Values will simply say, “This is how we do things here.”
Elijah and Elisha had unique voices. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John each communicated about Jesus’ ministry in very different ways. Paul and Barnabas had differing styles as well. Simply put, leaders communicate in their own God-given voice and way. This will take some getting used to for everyone. What matters is that a leader communicates God’s Word faithfully.
Still, it will take time for the congregation to adjust. Many will love the new style. Most will be fine with it. A few might leave over it. Accept this as the natural part of the shift in preaching and teaching style.
This area concerns day-to-day functions of a leader and team. Some leaders have a high organizational gifting, and some not as much. Further, what was simply assumed, delegated or done by one leader administratively, isn’t always the same with another. Some of these functions can and should be anticipated and talked through. However, most will need to be handled with clear communication and a high level of grace as they naturally arise in the course of ministry life.
How do we navigate Cultural Shift?
First, we pray about it!
This is more than the “Sunday School” answer. The Holy Spirit can and will help us make inevitable changes throughout the organization, while helping everyone involved to adjust to them. We simply need to stay prayerful about it! Pray specifically for fellow team members and the congregation as they adjust.
Second, we talk about it.
This is about the health of the church we are privileged to lead. With much love and respect for both former, present and new leaders, we simply talk about differences in leadership style and vision and how they affect the church at each level. Again, this is more about culture than it is personality.
Third, we clarify it.
Again, what roles, duties and functions that simply were assumed by and/or of a previous leader, may not be so with a new leader. Many of these cannot be anticipated and will simply be addressed in the day-to-day course of ministry life. However, major responsibilities, direct reports, etc, should be discussed and then affirmed going forward.
The Holy Spirit will give us everything we need to love and lead well through the shifts that always occur during seasons of leadership transition.
Remember, you simply can’t over communicate as a new leadership culture is established through a season of transition.
What “shifts” have you experienced during seasons of transition? Let us know in the reply section below!
Want to drill down deeper on leading through transition? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s see how we can partner in a coaching relationship!