Leadership Trap: Silo Thinking (vol.3)

In the Harvard Business Review article “Four Mistakes Leaders Keep Making” Robert Shaffer pointed out the danger of:

“Excusing subordinates from the pursuit of overall goals”

One of the major keys to organizational success emerges from getting everyone to pull in the same direction–pursuing the same vision or big dream. Unfortunately this is much more difficult than you might expect. According to Shaffer the leader and his or her handling of those under his or her charge makes a significant difference. When the leader allows subordinates to focus only on the challenges and opportunities in their own division this will undermine the overall effectiveness of the team.

This kind of mistake grows out of seeing the venture as an organization rather than an organism. It is critical for every leader to realize how inter-dependent they really are to each other. Some have liken the narrow view of the task to “silo thinking.” The mental image is that each endeavor is a silo standing separate from the others on the same farm. Each silo stands alone, and evaluates its success and failure based on its performance.

Sadly this kind of thinking runs rampant in the church. The youth minister focuses on his or her ministry, while the music minister gets caught up in the worship ministry while ignoring the demands upon the preschool minister. Each minister does his or her thing while ignoring the health and vitality of the whole. This kind of thinking is very illogical when one realizes the church is a “body” not an “organization.” As Paul apply points out each part of the body depends on the others, and each part is essential for the success of the whole.

It is essential in leadership of the church, that the pastor stress the importance of each ministry working together to accomplish the overall mission of the church. This “big picture” thinking trickles down from the leaders through the system and must also bubble up from the very roots of the laity. From top to bottom each member needs to buy into and become fully committed to the mission of the church and its unique vision to be the presence of Christ in their context.

To avoid this common mistake, the pastor must take very seriously the role of being the “steward of the vision.” It is the pastor’s calling to keep the vision in front of the leadership, and the people. Some have suggested that if you don’t remind the people every forty days who they are and why they are here–the church will forget.

I believe vision casting and accountability are keys to overcoming the common flaw of leaders and organizations.

Paul spoke to this challenge in Ephesians 4:

15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

From Paul’s perspective when Christ is the head, then the whole body is “joined and held together.” Making Jesus Lord confronts the challenges of selfish thinking or “silo thinking.”  He also observes the body grows up “in love, as each part does its work.”  Most churches and organizations struggle under the 80/20 principle–80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. Can you imagine what would happen if this trend were reversed?

Leaders must call everyone to pull in the same direction all the time in every way.

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