Church Leadership and the Network Perspective. Does the Latest Leadership Approach Fit You?

I started this website because I’m passionate about the local church and about leadership and the potential power of both. I believe that the local church is how God wants to move in our age and I believe that the quality of leadership determines a good organization from a great one.

Thus, leaderhelps.com.

I am determined to make this site a useful resource for church lay leaders, pastors, ministers, teachers and others who serve so faithfully.

So, if you are a leadership geek like me, you may be familiar with the concept of leadership from the Network Perspective (as always, sources below).

According to the Center for Creative Leadership, the Network Perspective is “the ability to look beyond formal, designated relationships and see the complex web of connections between people in and beyond your organization.” In other words, you begin to see and emphasize your relationship with people who don’t attend your church every Sunday.

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Leadership from the Network Perspective sees relationships as the primary currency of leadership. But it goes far beyond relationships the way you may be accustomed to thinking about them. They are sometimes secondary relationships (a pastor’s relationship with the neighbor of a member of his congregation, a Sunday School teacher’s relationship with a class member’s book club) and they are also often informal.

Everyone in your church is involved in a series of relational networks. Let’s take one member of your church, for instance. She is a teacher in a Christian school. Look at some of the networks with which she has regular involvement:

  • The other teachers in her school
  • The parents of the children she teaches
  • The people she meets with when she attends a jewelry sales party
  • Her neighbors
  • The members of the Parent-Teacher Council
  • The women in her workout class at the gym
  • The Saturday morning coffee group she meets with.

Or what about the man in your Sunday School class who works in sales for a pharmaceutical company. What are some of his networks?

  • The board members of his professional association of which he is a part
  • The members of his sales team at work
  • His fantasy football league
  • His neighbors
  • His followers on Twitter
  • His high school classmates with whom he’s planning a 25th reunion
  • The volunteer maintenance group at his child’s school

The Network Perspective says that much happens in a person’s life, informally, as a result of these various networks. (In a workplace setting, for instance, the Network Perspective says that there is significant work accomplished that is produced through informal networks, rather than always through the formal chain of command or designated teams.)

When you view leadership from a Network Perspective, you look past what you normally see and view your leadership role more broadly and, again, more informally.

Those new networks that you may be recognizing for the first time are now included in what you view as your circle of influence as a leader. That is leadership from the Network Perspective.

I asked a pastor friend whether he thought the Network Perspective could apply to church leadership. He was skeptical. First, he said, his focus as a pastor must always be primarily on those he has in his congregation on Sunday morning and that considering outside networks really doesn’t help him meet his goals, even from an evangelistic perspective. Second, “it feels just like the leadership flavor of the month,” he said.

He may be right, but I wonder.

We are constantly using new technology to build our own informal networks. Facebook friends, Twitter followers, Instagram followers, etc. Perhaps church leaders should become more sensitive to this dynamic. Explore creatively tapping into, influencing those new networks.

Edoardo Gallo of Oxford (referenced below) paints the following picture of the leader from the Network Perspective:

We are on stage with this leader, the leader with a “network perspective.” The whole stage is in the spotlight, everyone is there. But at first we can’t see… him! Finally, we spot him. He is in a corner, carefully watching everything that is going on. He is trying to discern the strong, invisible patterns that connect him and everyone else in a complex network that he is trying to influence. He does not have a microphone, nobody does. At times we see someone coming to him, having an intense conversation, and then going back at the center of the stage. Everything seems to run smoothly. At last, we decide to try with him too… Show us how you lead! He slowly turns toward us: “I’m already leading, can’t you see?”

People with a network perspective understand the dynamic web of connections that have an impact on their work, their leadership, and the leadership culture of their organization. They can identify patterns of relationships and people in their personal network and the broader organizational network that will foster strategic success – and those that will inhibit or undermine it.


Sources

Gallo. A Network Perspective on Leadership

Center for Creative Leadership: 7 Reasons Why You Need A Network Perspective

Center for Creative Leadership: Developing a Network Perspective

 

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