Leadership Capacity

April 12, 2011 — Leave A Comment

Just for a moment, imagine yourself as a car. Based on what you know about yourself and your leadership, what kind of car would you be?

So if you’re a car, then Leadership Capacity relates to the amount of payload you can carry at any one time. How much weight can you handle, how many people can you carry, before your engine overheats and breaks down under the strain?

There are two kinds of capacity that fall under this heading—task capacity, and relational capacity. Leadership in a church or other faith-based organization certainly involves some task capacity—that is, how many tasks or projects you can handle all at once without getting tanked. For the most part, however, most burnout among ministry professionals is connected to relational capacity—that is, the maximum number of people you can effectively invest in and care for at any one time. It will come as no surprise to say that not everyone has the same relational capacity. You probably know some people who have a really high relational capacity (you might even be one of them!); and you also know people who quickly experience overwhelm anytime they have more than just a handful of others that they invest in relationally. Several factors can contribute to your relational capacity: whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, how relationally- or physically-taxing your ministry role is, or your current health status, just to name a few. But it’s important for you to know what your current relational capacity is as a leader, because it can help you discern what to say yes to and what to say no to as you follow God’s lead.

Here’s a quick assessment: Grab a sheet of paper and a pen. On your paper, list all the people you are currently investing in at a deep level. Don’t include casual acquaintances or co-workers you don’t spend time with outside the office. Focus on your significant spiritual relationships in each of these categories:

  • Those you are investing in as a current team member and/or future leader
  • Your immediate family, and other close family members
  • Your “inner circle” of friends
  • People outside your faith in whom you are actively investing relationally

When you’re finished, get curious about your list:

  • What stands out to you as you look at your list?
  • Would you say that you are currently under capacity, at capacity, or over capacity as a leader? What is pointing you to that conclusion?
  • How did you get here? In other words, what drove you to create your current level of relational investment?
  • What’s the question you want to take to God about this issue?

One awesome thing about being a leader who has fully surrendered your life to God is that your life becomes “Spirit driven” rather than “need driven.” If we try to respond to every need that we see around us, or help every person who comes to us with a request, we will all get tanked and burn out as leaders (no matter how big your relational capacity is!). The goal of ministry leadership isn’t to respond to every need, but to follow God’s Spirit. Where is he pointing you? What is he telling you to do? Who is he leading you to invest in? You don’t have to do it all. You just have to do what he is telling you to do. Authentic spiritual leadership is as much about knowing what to say no to as it is about knowing what to say yes to.

Michael Warden

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Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Pace | Michael Warden, Leadership Coach - September 25, 2012

    […] I wrote about leadership capacity several months back? (If not, you can check out that entry by clicking here.) I used a car analogy to explain how leadership capacity is like figuring out how much cargo […]

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    […] two previous posts, I used a car analogy to talk about Leadership Capacity and Pace. So Rhythm is the third and final element that a leader needs to be intentional about in […]

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