Harvard professor John Kotter has provided language for leading upward; he calls it “managing the boss.” While this may sound manipulative, Kotter explains the concept as providing what your boss needs from you when he needs it so that you are both as successful as possible.
I have seen many executive pastors fail to lead upward or “manage the boss.” While they may be very gifted in leadership or administration, their leadership is greatly hampered because trust is not established with the senior leader.
Dear Executive pastor — if your senior leader does not trust you, your leadership is over and you have become an expensive intern.
So how does an XP manage the boss?
Communication is essential, but the communication needs to be when and how the senior pastor prefers the communication. You never want your senior pastor sighing when he sees your name on caller ID or overwhelmed with the number of messages you send. With the executive pastors I coached, I often used the attached document to help the executive pastor think through communication.
Let me give personal examples from Miami. I quickly learned that Rick is consumed with message preparation and does the majority of his preparation in the mornings; therefore, I rarely called or emailed him in the mornings. Rick also prefers receiving information in chunks as opposed to quick bursts of updates, and he does better with face-to-face communication. So I kept a running list of small topics and went over these with him every Tuesday over lunch. We talked every day on big items, but I tired to discipline myself to hold off on the little items until our weekly meeting. A few times a week, I checked to see “if there was anything I could take off his plate.” I would typically delegate that to a staff member in the area of his concern, but I wanted him to know he could unload even “small things” on me.
The eight years serving as his executive pastor were amazing, but I am convinced it was largely due to the strength of our relationship.
More next blog…