The majority of churches I have consulted and coached with over the past decade do not have an accountable leadership style. Instead, their leadership style is likely either bureaucratic (committee or consensus-driven) or autocratic (pastor/personality-driven). In a bureaucratic leadership model, the pastor is given responsibility, but not authority resulting in a safe but not a missionally effective church. In an autocratic leadership model, responsibility and authority have been given to the pastor but there is no accountability resulting in sometimes being effective but not a necessarily safe model of ministry. An accountable leadership model is where those who are given authority are also given responsible, and are held accountable. This leads to both a safe and an effective ministry model.
If accountable leadership is safe and effective, why don’t more churches practice this leadership model? First, I believe it is because it is a foreign concept to most church leaders. Most church leaders have been brought up in a committee-based structure with multiple checks and balances. It is becoming more common, but still not the mainstay.
Second, I believe church leaders struggle with the distinction of grace and accountability. If the church is to be grace-filled, how can we hold one another accountable especially if they are volunteers? Aren’t we supposed to be “nice” since we are the church? Christ’s work is our most important work. Why would we not hold one another accountable to this holy work? Did Jesus not hold his disciples accountable?
Third, I think church leaders see accountability as punitive, negative, or punishment. In actuality, accountability is being supportive, collaborative, problem-solving, and all being on the same page towards a common mission and vision. Those who practice accountable leadership find it to be life-giving and a catalyst for moving the church forward with missional focus and effectiveness.
Fourth, I think church leaders are hesitant to adopt the accountable leadership model because it is saying yes to something that is unfamiliar and unknown and therefore somewhat scary. It is hard to imagine how the leadership will work, how it will feel, what it will sound like, and what it will look like if we have never experienced it. It is for this reason that some coaches I work with created a video demonstrating accountable leadership in a mock simplified board meeting. You can view that video here.
Accountable leadership in the life of the church brings us together around the mission of making disciple-making disciples and holds one another accountable for this missional focus. Too often, without accountability the mission is sacrified to personal preferences/agendas, preservation of personal relationships, pockets of control/bullies, and/or the inability/unwillingness to confront conflict.
In churches that adopt the accountable leadership model and faithfully lean into the deep adaptive cultural shift to live into this model, the leaders discover a deeper sense of spiritual leadership and a heightened understanding of responsibility of leading the church in its disciple-making mission. Ultimately, churches practicing accountable leadership are most often the most effective in their disciple-making mission. Why? Because they are accountable for the mission! It’s that simple!