The Millennial Leader: It’s All About Team

“If you want this generation to follow, you have to become a teaming leader.”

3. Teaming leaders consistently study, communicate and affirm how everything and everyone in the circle connects.

As a teaming leader, Paul paints a vivid picture of how the roles of believers and team members differ but of how they have in common this idea of being a part of a greater body. Paul carries the metaphor further with the concept of the supporting ligament: “Instead, by speaking the truth with love, let’s grow in every way into Christ, who is the head. The whole body grows from him, as it is joined and held together by all the supporting ligaments. The body makes itself grow in that it builds itself up with love as each one does their part” (Eph. 4:15-16, CEB).

While body parts such as the heart and the head get much more press and attention in sermons and seminars, Paul draws out a less-familiar reference—the supporting ligaments. Physiologically, ligaments are the tough fibrous tissues that connect our bones together and create joints. Our ligaments hold our frame together. Paul draws upon this image to urge the Ephesian believers to work hard at being “joined,” “held together” and “built up.” This is the work of the teaming leader.

According to Craig Groeschel, pastor of Life.Church, true team leaders “have to be a developers of people, to see potential in people and help bring it out. We have to be willing to have transparent conversations. At the same time, we need to be team players as leaders. We are not just coaches but player-coaches.” We don’t just lead “the game,” we must be in it.

4. Teaming leaders understand and respect the paradoxes of an effective team circle.

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While hierarchical leadership is a simple, and simplistic, way to lead, teaming leadership requires intentionality, finesse and constant communication. Paul’s call to the Ephesians to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:3) is no cake walk. Sometimes, on the contrary, it is bullwork!

While hierarchical leadership may be more clear-cut and immediately definitive, it is predicated upon the whims, notions and wishes of just one person, one mind and one point of view. An isolated and arbitrary mindset and manner is incredibly limiting to an organization, to a church. Teaming leadership is more nuanced and requires the balancing of dynamic tensions and paradoxes. Teaming leadership Involves …

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♦ leading by serving;
♦ organizing by delegating;
♦ building trust by giving it;
♦ exercising authority by giving it away;
♦ not giving right orders, but asking right questions;
♦ winning respect by admitting when you’re wrong; and by
♦ owning up to your own mistakes and sharing your successes with the team.

5. Teaming leaders create a culture of collaboration.

For them, collaboration is more than a means to an end. It is not just a tool to use to “get the job done.” Collaboration does more than focus on the labor at hand, it is all about the partnership of laborers, working together, putting their hands to the plow.

Here is how Paul describes his team—and himself:

♦ “fellow laborers” (Philip. 4:3; 1 Thess. 3:2)
♦ “fellow helpers” (2 Cor. 8:23; 3 John 8)
♦ “fellow servants” (Col. 1:7; 4:7)
♦ “fellow soldiers” (Philip. 2:25)
♦ “fellow workers” (Col. 4:11)
♦ “yoke fellow[s”] (Philip. 4:3)

In their study on millennials and work, The M-Factor, Lynne Lancaster and David Stillman noted the different ways the four major generations that make up the American workforce today tended to work. The builders generation were contributors—in other words, they focused primarily on serving the “greater good” of their corporations, churches and institutions. The boomers have been competitors—seeking hard to stand out from the crowd of some 80 million of them. They have focused on growing their businesses and organizations “bigger and bigger.” The xers are controllers—focusing often solely on themselves and their individual skills and entrepreneurial talents. But millennials are a different breed. Millennials will be the great collaborators. This is a generation weaned on cooperation at home and teamwork in school that did almost everything—including attending prom—in groups.

Kingdom Collaborations

When millennials say the word “collaboration” it may often mean something far different from their boomer or x-gen senior leaders. Millennials are all about their peers, but they are also all about reaching beyond them. In fact, they are finding effective ways to connect with teams in their churches, their communities and cyberspace. Their connections, collaborations and community are no longer limited by their ZIP Code. The world isn’t their oyster; it’s their playground and the field of ministry brimming with opportunity.

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The Apostle Paul used teams and teaming leadership to take the church to the then-known world. Teaming leadership became a practice and pattern he used to build new churches everywhere he went. The Paul pattern of leadership resonated with Timothys and Tituses then. Such teaming leadership resonates with millennials today.

Millennials refuse to be restricted to a desk and to the walls of one church building. They need to be led, not driven. They don’t want to just hear your vision; they want to see it in your life and live it out in the real world. Lancaster and Stillman say that “the worst thing you can do to millennials is isolate them.”

The next generation will take collaborations to a whole new level and the networks they create in many cases will be ever-growing and ever-spreading. Millennials are teaming in ways most of us who are on the 40-plus side of leadership and life never imagined. Many of them will remain interconnected to these networks and relationships for the rest of their lives. When you hire them, in a sense you are hiring their network, as well.

When Jesus came, he did not gain a following simply because he was a “leader.” The ancient world was full of leaders. No, it was something about the way he led that captured their imaginations and allegiance. A generation of millennials is in the wings, full of kingdom potential and waiting to be led. While what we accomplish as leaders makes an impression; it is the way we lead that will ultimately make disciples.

Robert Crosby is co-founder of Teaming Life and professor of practical theology at Southeastern University. In addition to training pastors and speaking at conferences, he has written several books including The One Jesus Loves (Thomas Nelson) and The Teaming Church (Abingdon Press. Follow him @RCCrosby.