Turning Followers Into Leaders: 3 Steps To Transforming Your Team

There are a handful of must read authors I believe every leader must follow and today a new author has joined those ranks. His name is David Marquet.

Captain David Marquet was like any other captain. He lead the way we all lead, until the day he unknowingly gave a command that was impossible to follow, as in physically impossible…and his crew tried to follow it! It wasn’t one of those "believe the impossible" motivational instructions, it was a “turn the sun off” kind of instruction. Impossible to follow through on. 

Marquet realized he was leading in a culture of followers. 

Now we’ve all been taught that leaders have followers, so what’s wrong with leading in a culture of followers? 

Followers don’t think for themselves, they depend on the guys at the top to do it. They believe the guys at the top has some special information only available to the guys at the top. 

And if you’re a guy at the top, you know that’s a lie. The guys at the top might see a bigger picture than the rest, but that’s a blessing as much as it is a curse. They might see more, but they see in much less detail. 

Have you ever felt that way? Like you were leading, but YOU had to ask all the questions, YOU had to have all the answers? 

Marquet introduces a new idea that begins to solve that problem. One that I believe has huge merit in the Church.

He calls it the Leader-Leader model (as opposed to the Leader-Follower Model).

The Leader-Leader model involves three key steps:

1. A change of control.

In a Leader-Follower organization the authority is restricted to the leader, but in order to create leaders we need to push the decision to the lowest possible level. Authority to make a decision needs to live where the information lives. 

Marquet introduced the phrase “I intend to….” into his culture to turn passive followers into active leaders. 

It wasn’t as if authority was pushed down to be made in personal silos. Everyone on the team shared their intent to make it clear what they were doing. This level of public sharing also helps to maintain alignment. 

Free flowing info coupled with the freedom to think out loud (both as team leaders and volunteers) creates the playground for Leader-Leader to develop. 

2. A new level of clarity.

As decision making authority is distributed throughout the organization it becomes unquestionably important that everyone understands what the organization is about. 

This means everyone understands your mission and vision statements (even if they are common or mundane).

They need to understand what makes your organization special, what makes it different. 

Most importantly they need to know what’s most important right now. At any given moment, what is the organization trying to accomplish right now? And that means you need to figure out how to get that information in the hands of people who DON’T attend your weekly staff meeting. 

3. The competency problem.

The third leg of this Leader-Leader model is Competency. In order to distribute authority all three legs need to exist and in most churches this is where the tension lives. 

Our volunteer teams are full of competent people in their own right, but are they highly skilled in the volunteer role they are fulfilling? 

This is where we must invest intentionally in teaching our volunteers new skills to help the succeed in their volunteer role. 

We need create an environment for learning (everyone, everywhere, all the time) and one where we are continually repeating the message that we are here to help people fulfill their own calling.

Ultimately, creating a Leader-Leader organization isn’t easy, but this level of empowerment will create leaders that will impact lives far outside the walls of our organizations. 

Final Question: What makes you cautious to implement a Leader-Leader model in your volunteer organization?