Leaders Enable Others to Act

“…. the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. ……… look for able men from all the people, ……… let them judge the people ………So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.” Exodus 18:18-22

Moses father-in-law, Jethro, could see what was going on: Moses was trying to do it all himself and the impact on Moses and the people was not good. So he advised Moses to share the burden and help the people. Notice that Moses had to do two things.

  • The first was give up some of the work to capable people.
  • The second was to share his authority, giving some of it to them, so that they could do the job that was asked of them.

Effective leaders recognise two things about achieving the vision. They cannot do it alone and they cannot make every decision. If they try, then they will cripple progress, bring the journey to a halt and fail to realise the vision.  From the Christ-centred-servant leader’s perspective they want to engage others and help them grow and become people of accomplishment, fulfilling their potential.  Implicit in this is trusting them to make decisions. That implies supporting them even when it’s not the decision that the leader would have made. If correction is needed then it is treated as a learning point and is done sensitively. (Refer back to the BOOST feedback model in Leading with Insight)

Effective Leaders Foster Collaboration by Promoting Collaborative Goals and Building Trust

At one level collaboration is about sharing the load by sharing tasks. However, this alone does not lead to a collaborative environment. Collaboration is built on a foundation of mutual trust. While the leader must be trusted by those he leads he must also trust them and they must trust each other (we look more at this when we examine the nature of teams).

The leader must give his people the freedom to take risks but this needs an environment of openness, transparency and commitment to each other to achieve the goal. The leader nurtures this along with personal satisfaction and commitment to excellence.   The leader becomes a guide not an autocrat.

Trust must extend throughout the team because in a collaborative environment. Success is not individual, in a team  it becomes a corporate accomplishment. Each team member is reliant on the others in the team for that accomplishment. Collaboration thus means that team members must subjugate their own personal achievement to that of the others in the team. There is a mutual reliance that says “We are all in this together.”

Effective Leaders Strengthen Others by Sharing Power and Discretion

The framework for collaboration is alignment and commitment. Team members must be aligned to the team’s goal and be committed to achieving that goal. This guides the choices and decisions that have to be made and provides the freedom that allows individuals to make choices and decisions that are good for the whole team.  And so the leader passes on some of their power and authority, strengthening individuals to solve their own problems and make their own decisions.

Wise leaders strengthen people by giving their power away and they use it in the service of other not themselves. Once passed on, the leader must be prepared to give up that authority and back the individuals. This can be difficult to accept. The leader’s line of action is no longer by command but by influence. Their relationship is no longer one of dominance but of partnership. Thus the leader must find ways of achieving this influence by leadership not control. One of the ways to do this is to model these leadership practices. We will discover others as we progress through the Growing the Servant Heart programme.

Kouzes and Posner observe:

“When leaders help others to grow and develop that help is reciprocated. People who feel capable of influencing their leaders are more strongly attached to those leaders and more committed to carrying out their responsibilities. They own their jobs and take responsibility to see that whatever needs to get done – or happen – does.”

The Right People

Tasks need to be given to the right people not just anyone. Just assigning tasks without considering the strengths and abilities of those to whom you give tasks is a recipe for failure and demoralisation.

Get to know the strengths of those around you so that you know what they can take on and excel. Watch and listen and you will learn through what people say and do, what they are good at, find easy and enjoy. One tip is to look for people enjoying what they do and being re-energised by their task.

Fan into Flames

The Christ-centred servant leader’s focus is on the achievement of others, their goal is that they grow and develop to fulfil their potential. Having given the right people the critical tasks the leader will not be hands off, rather they will seek to facilitate the success of the people in view. They will encourage, they will guide, they will coach, they will train people to develop and mature. They will fan into flames their gifts and abilities.

There is a Cost

There is a cost of doing this. It’s the risk that the person you choose may be better at the job than you. This will be visible to others and it may undermine your own self-view. You may find it difficult to not have things done exactly the way you want. You may find it hard to work with someone in a way that enables them to act and become the person God wants them to be, doing the work he wants them to do.

These are things that you will have to work through in humility with God but it all comes down to the question: “What is being a leader about?”  Is it about achieving end goals to your own exacting standards and maintaining face or is it about growing others?  What is your product?


  • Take a Moment: 
    • What task or role are you hanging on to that someone else can do?
      • Who might be the right person?  How can you confirm that?
      • What support would they need to succeed?
    • Do you trust your team enough to release them to fulfil their own potential?
      • What might you need to do to develop and display that trust?