Most people when asked to give a functional definition of leadership often present it as something that someone provides. The job description includes such items as: A Leader provides a compelling vision. They set direction and determine strategy. They motivate and inspire. This works well for the individual but what happens when you desire to develop a common goal. This type of effort demands the need for a leader to share power in attaining a particular outcome. What I would like to propose to you is a different methodology that is called “Leadership as Partnership.” Ross S. Moxley defines Leadership as partnership as “The practice of two or more people who share power and join forces to move toward the accomplishment of a shared goal.” Leadership than becomes an expression of a collective numbers rather the directives of an individual person.
Some people would define this as the lack of leadership but for people to lead from the sense of partnership there are five emotional requirements:
- People who are on this team cannot be riddled with personal insecurity. Insecurity is usually birthed from the fear that one may not be recognized for an outcome. To function effectively in this kind of team environment one must embrace the “WE” not the “ME.”
- Each individual must celebrate and embrace the shared sense of accountability and responsibility. Work is not done with an attitude of “us” versus “them” mindset. There are only us and what each individual does or does not do impacts the whole. This reduces the need to blame shift on others when something does not get done.
- Each person must embrace the diversity of the team and be able to give each person dignity and respect. The passion of partnership flows out of the passion that I care for my fellow team members so much that I am not willing to let them down.
- Each person must be courageous in their ability to speak the truth in love. What erodes trust on most teams is when people are experiencing chronic-anxiety and they begin to triangulate their conversations rather than go to the person. This type of behavior detracts from the shared goal of the team and it is an energy waster.
- People cannot project their own presumptions onto the motives of others. This is called “Projection” and it happens all the time when people react to someone else and then they prejudge the “WHY” to their behavior. Most people default to this behavior because they want to be control and seek to have their own demands and needs met. It is also an indicator of some type of deep frustration that is occurring in another area of one’s life that one feels they have no control in. This emotional state makes a high performing team into a group because what normally happens is people on the team begin walk on eggshells around the insecure team member who is attempting to cover their insecurity up by blaming others for their lack of performance.
It has been my experience as a leader that often times how people behave in their organizational role finds its origins in much deeper issues that may even go back to their family of origin. The wicked way that projection works is you are the recipient of someone’s angst that may go way back in their life-story. Emotional health is a foundational key for team members to function with a high understanding of partner rather than a competitor. This is why it is important for any leader that is attempting to build teams to understand that leadership is not just a cognitive phenomenon but it is also an emotional process. To the degree that a leader is able to be differentiated themselves by not getting entrapped in getting on the roller coaster of the unhealthy team members emotional chaos the better able will they be able to engage the person that is resisting the mindset to be a partner.
When churches and organizations begin to function with a culture of Leadership- partnership it empowers everyone in the group to share in both the successes and the failures of their efforts which brings further growth and maturity to each individual person. On an organizational level it will also reduce the inclination of various teams to distance themselves from each other and begin to create a closed system which is common in many addictive family systems in which people become silo’s distancing each other in such a way that they begin to compete for resources to produce their outcomes. This erodes communication and creates adversarial environments by which organizations may still be productive but the cost will be their inability to develop and empower their people as well as high capacity leaders will not remain long-term with the organization.
In order to be a servant-leader one must surrender one’s own need to be selfish in order to passionately be about the success of others. Albert Einstein said it best, “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile!”
 Russ S. Moxley, “Leadership as Partnership,” in Focus on Leadership: Servant-Leadership for the 21st Century, ed. Larry C. Spears and Michael Lawrence (New York, New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2002). p 47.