Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Organizational culture”

Leading in a Matrix

Organizations can structure themselves into one of three shapes:  geographical, functional, or a combination of the two known as a matrix.  All of these structures have strengths and weaknesses.  Wise leaders know the times and which structure best fits the context in which they are seeking to accomplish mission.

Much is written about geographical and functional alignments in various contexts, but I recently came across an excellent work by Stanley McChrystal titled, Team of Teams, in which he describes how he led the mission against terror in Iraq by forming a matrix of many highly specialized military units.  It’s an engaging read and very practical, with an easy application for those in business and ministry.

In a matrix structure, geographical and functional lines of authority overlap and cross.  Where these intersections happen, over-communication is needed to insure common objectives and outcomes. McChrystal talks about creating a shared level of organizational consciousness, where everyone shares common information, with no silos, helping to create organizational transparency which enables easier alignment and accountability for missional objectives.

Having created this common organizational consciousness, the role of the primary leader is to focus on organizational tone and culture, allowing the individual parts to function in their strengths.  When that happens, we will get true synergy, where the total is greater than the sum of the individual parts.

Kingdom leaders today are leading in a world full of complexity that is changing at an ever-increasing pace.  The good news is that we have the Holy Spirit within us to guide us through this complexity.  He will show us which structure fits our missional needs at this time.  We rest in knowing that we are not trying to ‘get it right, once and for all.’  Rather, we are trying to get it right for now, knowing that our context will change at some time in the future and we will once again be forced to rethink how best to re-organize.

Organization structure can be consuming and distract us from mission, if we are not careful.  It is a means to an end, not an end.  We are not looking for a perfect structure, just one that optimally serves us to carry out our mission for the glory of Christ at this time in this context.

How long has it been since you rethought your mission, strategy, and which organizational structure best serves you for the coming decade?  Maybe it’s time for a prayerful and thoughtful review?

A Leader’s Vision

A leader needs to lead towards a vision.  A good leader does not need to be the one who comes up with the vision.  In fact, that may be best done with a leadership team.  But once the vision is clear, team leaders are the primary communicators of the vision.  These leaders must see more, see farther, and see more clearly than those they lead.  Without clear vision a leader becomes one of the “blind leading the blind” and we settle for activity rather than accomplishment of God’s purposes.

When we say a leader needs to “see more” what we intend is that a leader needs to be able to see the whole, not just the individual parts.  They must be able to think and lead systemically, noting how one decision can impact the whole, not just the immediate parts.  Much like a fine watch that has multiple interconnected gears, so is leadership at an organizational level.  One change can have ramifications at multiple levels.  A leader with vision sees the immediate impact, but can also anticipate impacts on multiple levels.

The second type of vision that is needed by a leader is the ability to “see farther” into the future.  It is that gaze towards the horizon that sees what is coming before others and that prepares one to take advantage of changes thrust upon us or protect others from this change.  This vision truly needs to be bifocal – seeing what is up close and immediate as well as seeing what is coming towards us in the future.  Many get so consumed by the immediate that they are taken by surprise by what arrives on their doorstep.  Much like the approaching tsunami, when the water recedes away from the beach we know that there is an impending wave coming.  Rather than rushing towards the receding water to collect the newly exposed sea shells, we move rapidly away from the beach to high ground because we know what will soon follow.

A third type of vision is that good leaders need to “see more clearly” the issues surrounding their leadership.  This type of vision involves focus as well as depth perception.  A focused vision is one that does not get distracted by the clamor around them.  It is laser-like in intensity knowing that this is a God-given mission that we do for His glory and we do knowing that we will be accountable to Him.  This clarity has depth perception in that it takes into consideration the various dimensions of any issue.  A good leader is able to see multiple sides of an issue, weighing the pros and cons, embracing different points of view, and is willing to change his or her thoughts when confronted with weightier arguments.

Vision – don’t try to lead without it!  Have you had your vision checked recently?

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