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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Worship Leaders and Respect

Many of those who lead worship sense a lack of respect from those with whom they work.  Sometimes from direct comments or confrontations to indirect comments or body language, but the message communicated to the “designated leader” is one of lack of respect.  How can leadership gain the respect they need? How can those who serve under poor leadership show proper respect? Let’s consider some options.

Though intended for husbands and wives, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, gives a great basis for this discussion in his book, Love and Respect [Thomas Nelson, 2004].  I would like to borrow some general principles he mentions as well as some other ideas that I believe might be of help. 

According to Eggerichs, men define themselves more by what they do than what they say, women on the whole are more relational. [I would encourage anyone to go ahead and read what he has to say about the husband/wife relationship issues, but I will depart in another direction.] Understanding this difference is key for working with volunteers as a leader and working “under” different leaders. I would like to reserve discussion of the differences in leadership styles between men and women for another time, but I would like to focus on the general topic of how leaders gain respect from those with whom they work and how these volunteers can express it.

Thoughts to ponder for Worship Leaders
1. To earn respect, you must give respect. How does a leader show respect for those volunteers with whom he or she works? There are several ways, but let me mention a few:
    –  By making the expectations of the responsibility clear from the beginning.  If the leader keeps adding responsibilities or commitments to what was originally agreed, the volunteer will be frustrated. Understanding what was being expected of them has now become a moving target and the volunteer will begin to question his or her ability to participate if there are more “surprises” along the way. 
    – Respecting volunteer’s time. Wasting rehearsal time by not being ready, learning the music with the group, rather than teaching it, talking too much, getting a late start or constantly going overtime, all of these reflect a general attitude of disrespect to the volunteers with whom you work.
    – Respecting the volunteer’s opinion. Listening to the opinions of others does not mean accepting everything they say as an option upon which to act. However, many leaders are surprised by comments from volunteers that what they say is being ignored. How can we better listen to these suggestions? One helpful tool is called active listening, in which you repeat back to the person what they have said without giving an evaluation of the comment. Don’t say, “What do you mean the bridge in this song doesn’t fit? You just don’t know how to play.” But rather, “You are saying that the bridge doesn’t seem to fit. What seems wrong about it to you?” By asking for clarification you have affirmed the person and shown respect. Even if the idea seems off the wall, you can say “that’s interesting, and we might try that later, but right now let’s see if we can focus on this.

2. Respect is earned, not bought or purchased, or demanded. As a leader, respect may be demanded, but will not be given if those on whom the demands are forced do not consider the person worthy of respect. When working with volunteers, the leader must remember that they are here as volunteers and the level of demand must be in line with that reality, and not compared to someone whose only job and income is to do that job.  
    One very damaging attempt at earning respect is by showing favoritism. Few things destroy respect faster than when volunteers sense or see favoritism on the part of the leader or the one that is responsible for making decisions.  Favoritism foments jealously and cultivates a spirit of unhealthy competition.  
    This is not to say that there should not be high standards, but reasonable expectations, clearly understood.  Unreasonable expectations reflect the inexperience of the leader and lack of sensitivity to the abilities of those for whom the leader is called to work.
    Making threats is another tragedy that poor leaders practice.  Statements like,  “Do this or else,”  reveal insecure leadership ability and is a sure fire way to kill any respect toward leadership. It is difficult to show respect when true leadership is just not there. 
    This is compounded when some type of financial reward is tied to the demand. Expectations of what the specific responsibilities are tied to financial benefits must be clearly explained before they are accepted. Failure to do so will only cause trouble and misunderstanding for all involved.

3. Healthy boundaries must be set.
Letting those who work with you know what is expected of them in a detailed manner from the beginning helps avoid the hard feelings that come from continually calling out someone for not being at a performance or rehearsal. Set the expectations by a clear description: “you are needed each week in rehearsal and in these services.  If the leader keeps adding responsibilities or commitments to what was originally agreed, the volunteer will be frustrated because trying to these extra responsibilities were not planned, or anticipated. It is like hitting a moving target.  Good leaders know how to set healthy boundaries and respect them once they are set.
    If an emergency arises, exceptions might need to be made, but they really need to be emergencies, otherwise “exceptions become the rule, and not an exception.” When a leader doesn’t play by his own guidelines, respect for the leader will suffer.

Are you in leadership and feel as if you are lacking respect?

Review the thoughts above and do honest self evaluation. If there are some areas on which you need to improve, fine, admit them, confess them to the group and being to map out some steps to overcome them. Sharing the fact that you recognize and admit weakness and that you are actively working on them will actually do more to rebuild respect. Asking specific people to help you be accountable will really help you make progress. I pray God’s blessing on you as you grow in your leadership skills.

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