There is something I am striving for in 2022.  My goal is to become a more emotionally healthy leader.  As my responsibilities and influence increase, I want to show up as the most healthy leader that I can be so that I can lead others in ways that bring out their best. And so that I can bring my best for years to come. 

An emotionally healthy leader is a leader who adapts easily to changing situations and the needs of each person.  

I wonder if you’re attempting to move in the same direction.  

Something I’ve been learning about leadership is there are styles of leadership that “resonate,” meaning people resonate with the leader and his or her style of leading in a way that unifies and aligns a team.  There are also ways of leading that are “dissonant,” meaning they disunify and un-align teams.  

Often, whether or not a leader is “resonate” or “dissonant” depends on their ability to adapt.  Emotionally healthy leaders are able to read the room, access a situation and adapt.  

If this sounds familiar to you, I encountered these ideas in this book.

The question is, are you leading in a way that is creating resonance or are you leading in a way that creates dissonance?  Are you effectively adapting?

There are four styles of leadership that create resonance, bringing out the best in people and in teams.  Each of us can grow in these leadership styles.  Some may come more naturally than others, but the best leaders can flex between the different styles.

Visionary Leadership

A visionary leader moves people toward shared dreams and has the most positive impact on teams.

Here’s a key to visionary leadership:  Painting the picture of where the group is going, without stipulating how to get there.  Clarity around “where” and “why” is necessary but leaving the “how” unclear sets people free to innovate.  

This may feel counter-intuitive, but trust me, if you say this is “what” we are doing and this is “how” you must do it, creativity and innovation will plummet.  

If you want to grow as a leader, clarify the vision and empower your team to figure out how you’ll get there.  

Coaching Leadership

Good leaders make other people better. The real magic happens when leaders coach others in the skills that are most helpful to the organization.  A coaching leader connects what a person wants with the organization’s goals. 

In other words, a coaching leader identifies a person’s strengths and weaknesses and helps them grow in their development, always with the goals of their organization in mind. 

If the leadership development you are working on with a particular employee is connected to the visionary goals of your church…now you are on to something as a leader.  

If you want to grow as a coaching leader, start by growing in your understanding of what the people you lead want, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how they might best serve the Church.  Then, begin to coach them toward specific developmental goals.  

Said simply, people want to win.  If you help them win as they help your church win…now you’re a coaching leader.  

Affiliative Leadership 

An affiliative leader builds harmony through relational connections.  I have recently been leaning heavily into affiliative leadership because I took over for a department that was marred by mistrust and relational disconnection.  

My primary strategy for the first six months of leading that department was to build relationships.  I simplified the agenda for team meetings to one item—a relational question that brings people together.  Questions like:

  • Tell us about your favorite place growing up.
  • Share something you love that everyone else hates and something you aren’t into that everyone else thinks is the greatest.
  • Tell us about a significant moment in your teenage years. 

Then, I scheduled an overnight retreat for the team with only two purposes:

  1. Every team member shares their story. 
  2. Eat good food.  

Often affiliative leadership is needed to heal a rift or lead through a stressful season…like COVID.  

If the primary image that comes to mind for you when you think about the potential of your team is a family, you might be an affiliative leader

If you want to grow in affiliative leadership, focus on building relationships.  Ask good personal questions, listen well, and find ways to get the people you lead more relationally connected with each other.

Democratic Leadership

The fourth leadership style that creates resonance is the democratic style of leadership.  We’re talking about valuing people’s input and generating commitment through consensus.  A democratic leader values perspective in decision making.  

A positive to this style of leadership is that a democratic approach often generates buy-in from team members.  When it comes to making decisions, if they know their voice was heard and considered, most people tend to get on board.  

One drawback to the democratic leadership style is that it can slow down decision making.  If you are in a crisis, the democratic style can be dangerously slow.  

If you want to grow as a democratic leader, seek more input.  Ask more people for their thoughts on key decisions.  Make it a practice to ask each person that you lead their opinion.  

Wrap Up 

My guess is that one or two of these styles come very naturally for you and one or two feel a bit like a foreign language. 

For me, I am naturally affiliative and democratic. I slide into these styles of leadership very easily.  However, the visionary style takes more work and coaching is an uphill climb.  

What I am learning about effective leadership is that it’s all about becoming more adaptive.  It’s less about what I am naturally good at and more about what each person that I lead needs. 

Adapting your leadership style to the situation or the person is what will take your leadership to the next level. 

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