Hey Pastors, What’s Your Leadership Style?

Do you trust people or fear people? Maybe you demonstrate a mixture of the two, or perhaps you lean heavily toward one or the other.

According to my friend and mentor Bob Dale, the extent to which a pastor fears or trusts those in his/her congregation will have a significant impact on the pastor’s leadership style.

According to Bob, “Style is our characteristic manner of expressing our values and of executing our work. Style refers to our distinctive approach to others and our ministry.” While there are plenty of style options available for pastors, Bob recognizes four clear ones. In my work as a coach and consultant to pastors, I can attest that Bob is spot on (as is his habit).

Here are the four styles: Catalyst, Commander, Hermit, and Encourager.

And here is a visual map for how they relate to one another…

Catalyst Leaders are effective because they are able to balance their leadership energy toward both member needs and congregational mission. This style is not easy, but it is effective. It takes a lot of skill and work to be a catalyst. These leaders actively initiate relationships and are positive with people. Meanwhile, they also keep a clear sight on the congregation’s mission and are constantly helping move things in that direction.

Commander Leaders are efficient because they don’t let relationships get in the way of tasks. Their demands are clearly defined and their agenda is narrow. They press for immediate action and believe quick, simple answers can be found for every problem. While this style has its advantages, the short-term efficiencies of this style burn people out and create lots of stress and strain on the congregational system.

Encourager Leaders are very person-centered. They listen well and make people feel valued and cared for. In many ways they are the mirror opposites of the Commander in that they value people while undervaluing tasks and production. They are non-directive and sometimes non-directional. Leaders with this style fit well in congregations who are experiencing stress and conflict.

Hermit Leaders are uncomfortable with both people and goals, preferring to withdraw from people and abandon organizational initiatives. In many ways, these leaders follow their followers. Long-term hermit behavior will yield an inert congregation, but sometimes this style fits the short-term needs of a congregation. For instance, this style can buy time when things get overheated and can allow for rest when a congregation has exerted a lot of energy. (Bob Dale, Pastoral Leadership, pp. 39-45)

Hopefully you have more than one style. While the Catalyst Style generates the best long-term results for congregation and leader, there are times when one of the other styles is needed for just a short period. So be flexible. Ask yourself some questions to help you inhabit the style that’s needed now…

  1. How positive is my attitude toward the real people in our congregation?
  2. What’s my balance between goals and relationships?
  3. What season is our congregation coming out of? headed toward?
  4. What is my natural style and when has it not served well?