The Science Behind Effective Ministry Leadership: 3 Tips to Help You Navigate the Crossroads of Results & Relationships

Effective leaders shoulder a lot of responsibility. They are responsible to shareholders for financial results. They are responsible to clients for quality and service. And they are responsible to employees for guidance, support and recognition. Mangers are presented with a leadership crossroads when asked to balance external expectations with anticipated results. It can be stressful; even the best of us sometimes shift from coaching and supporting to anger, judgment and blaming.

But there’s a better way for leaders to deliver results and strengthen relationships than exerting tighter control, conveying disappointment, or taking over projects that have failed to meet targets. How?

Get closer to your team, engage it in problem solving, be transparent, and share your concerns.

The Science Behind Effective Leadership

Anger activates our fear networks and releases the hormone and neurotransmitter cortisol, which blocks access to areas of the brain that govern advanced thought processes like strategic thinking. Fear engages the amygdala, the primitive part of our brain responsible for memory and emotional reactions, which triggers a “fight or flight” response. A leader whose actions provoke fear in others may unwittingly shut down team members’ creative and strategic capacities.

Healthy relationships serve to release oxytocin, another hormone and neurotransmitter. Unlike cortisol, which closes neural pathways, oxytocin opens up the networks in our executive brain, or prefrontal cortex. Cortisol enables leaders to successfully manage the expectations, motivations and efforts of all stakeholders and to co-create optimal solutions. That allows teams to experiment with new ways of doing business—and to grow together.

So, the next time you find yourself having to decide between results at all costs or aligning your energies with others on the road to mutual success, consider these leadership tips:

  • Manage disappointment by seeking to understand shortcomings without judgment and by enlisting your team in collaborative problem solving.
  • Set goals and expectations with your team. Discover where they want to go and make sure they have an opportunity to weigh in on the plans and commitments they are going to be held responsible for. Make it safe for people to be honest—to freely share their thoughts, concerns and perspectives.
  • Allow others to shine. Hang back, listen up, and let others jump in to take the lead. You might be pleasantly surprised!

Leaders that are guided by both their heads and their hearts—and the energy and aspirations of their team—are more likely to optimize outcomes, even in the face of tough challenges and underperformance. It’s not rocket science, it’s neuroscience.

Choose the constructive response the next time you find yourself at a leadership crossroad between results and relationships.

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Judith Glaser

Judith Glaser

Judith E. Glaser is the CEO of Benchmark Communications and the chairman of The Creating WE Institute. She is the author of six books, including Creating WE (Platinum Press, 2005) and Conversational Intelligence (BiblioMotion, 2013), and a consultant to Fortune 500 companies.

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I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

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