Creating Leadership Accountability Systems


Intentional leaders know that team leadership is not a lone ranger proposition. While leadership is certainly a specialized role, it serves best in conjunction and context with others — the body of Christ principle. It’s not a healthy approach to think of yourself as the lone ranger way out ahead of your team, though it’s easy to slide into this mentality. The best leaders bring the team along with them, share the load, and pull together according to who does what best. You are not set up for true maturity in leadership until you’ve developed a strong and healthy answer to these two questions.

Strategic partnerships require a team mindset, a humble servant heart, and a spirit of respectful gratitude for how wondrously God has equipped those around you.

To whom am I accountable?

Even though you may lead a team (paid or unpaid), it’s dangerous if you do not have more extensive accountability than to your team members. How easy it is to drift off track into your own agenda without realizing it! Your team may not have the courage to tell you if this happens. Or you may not listen even if your team does tell you.

Stop and consider these questions: If you are the pastor or senior pastor, with whom do you practice active accountability on behalf of your ministry leadership? Is it the personnel committee of your church? A cluster of other clergy in the town or area with whom you meet regularly? Your district superintendent? A pastor at another church who is ahead of you in ministry size and sophistication, someone from whom you can learn and gain objective perspective, even if only by regular e-mail dialogue? Another pastor who faces similar ministry challenges, with whom you can share mutual accountability? It may be that no accountability has even been in place for whoever the pastor has been at your church — until now. Create one for yourself. Functioning as a leader in a vacuum, no matter how competent you believe yourself to be, is toxic.

If you are a church staff member, what type of regular accountability do you have in place with the senior pastor or other supervisor? If you’re an unpaid leader, to whom are you accountable and how does feedback and conversation regularly take place? Again, take the initiative yourself to establish scheduled accountability touchpoints. Do not wait for someone else to think of it or set it up on your behalf.

Some leaders simply use the staff, team members, or congregation they lead for feedback and accountability. While certainly you need to listen to their feedback and understand you are accountable to them for providing great leadership, it’s not healthy to be governed solely by those you lead. You’ll gradually find yourself shaped by their opinions, trying to please them and gain their approval even when it compromises the direction you know would be true to the vision. Establishing accountability points for yourself outside the team ensures a balanced perspective.

Accountability is an active practice, not just something presented on paper by lines connecting circles on an organizational chart. Accountability is not about asking permission for every single ministry task you want to do. Think of your accountability practice like a sounding board. Your point of accountability comes best through a person whose feedback you are willing to listen to, respect, and accept. Ministry leadership accountability happens through genuine dialogue around topics like these:

  • How am I doing in my leadership role? Is there anything I could change or improve?
  • Is what I am doing and planning with my team, ministry, or church in accordance with the overall vision of the church or ministry? Does it have a scriptural foundation? . . .
  • What have been demonstrated results of my team’s ministry efforts? Have they accomplished the purpose of the team’s existence?
  • Here are the leadership challenges I am facing (name them). What am I not seeing, or what do I need to do differently?

Craft what your accountability touchpoint topics will be, and use them to guide you in making worthwhile the use of time shared in accountability conversations.

What if your church, staff, or ministry has designated a point person for your leadership accountability, and you do not find him or her to be credible, helpful, or even experienced enough to give you feedback? Honor and respect that individual, and at the same time pull together your own additional unofficial touchpoints of helpful accountability. Your willingness to be proactive and create a strong accountability network for yourself will be directly related to your leadership growth.

Who are my intentional strategic partners?

[Intentional leaders choose] strategic partners who have strengths and talents that exceed theirs in whatever particular areas their skills are most rudimentary. The impact of my own leadership altered dramatically for the better as I became aware of the synergism produced by strategic partnerships. Now I am constantly on the lookout, seeking to align myself in intentional strategic partnerships wherever possible.… While I am ultimately responsible for team success, strategic partnerships with team members help me to be more successful in my role. My strengths reciprocally partner with theirs, enabling individual team member success.

Strategic partnerships may seem logical and useful to you as you read this. Unfortunately, some leaders struggle with ego issues when it comes to actually creating such partnerships. The leader may think,“After all, I’m the lead leader, so I need to be better at everything than anyone on my team. To actually acknowledge that a team member is better than me at anything would be a sign of weakness… ”

If your ego strength resists allowing others on your team to be better than you in any areas, beware — you are dealing with your own spiritual immaturity. The body of Christ principle unquestionably illustrates all believers as having particular talents and gifts of excellence they are to uniquely contribute. If you are unable to acquiesce to your team members’ legitimate contributions in a given area, you effectively shut down the rich God-given resources they bring to the table. Strategic partnerships require a team mindset, a humble servant heart, and a spirit of respectful gratitude for how wondrously God has equipped those around you.

This material is reprinted from Kibbey’s book Ultimately Responsible: When You’re in Charge of Igniting a Ministry, Abingdon, 2006. ©Sue Nilson Kibbey. Used by permission.


About Author

Sue Nilson Kibbey is the inaugural director of the Bishop Bruce Ough Innovation Center at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. Previously, she served as Director of the Office of Missional Church Development for the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church. Since writing Ultimately Responsible: When You’re in Charge of Igniting a Ministry in 2006 (available at Cokesbury and Amazon), she has coauthored several more books, most recently Dynamite Prayer.

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