This I command you: love one another. (John 15:17)
Jesus commands us to love one another—he doesn’t say anything about liking each other. But we all have a common mission; therefore, we must work together regardless of personal affinity or agreement. A team that does not grow together will not work well together.
A leader must monitor and enhance the team’s ability to work together, facilitate trust, and ultimately, build and develop new leaders. According to leadership teacher and Christian minister John Maxwell, leaders must identify, grow, then multiply the team so that each is a leader in their own right. He writes, “Moses was the greatest leader in the Old Testament . . . [but he] was trying to do it all himself” (Developing the Leaders Around You, 13). Leaders must model the attributes desired, then help others develop their leadership capacity.
Leadership in the Church begins with the Hebrew word, yachad (H3161). While it only appears a handful of times in the Scripture, the word has tremendous meaning—it translates to “unite” or “together.” In the Nicene Creed, Catholics profess to be “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” The Church Fathers recognized the importance of being and working together to move the message of Christ forward.
Unity is the opposite of division. Leaders must work to bring everyone together in Christ. Starting with prayer is essential. The Gospels reaffirm that leaders need to be inviting and open, meeting people where they are, loving them—willing the good of the other—even if they disagree with them.
Fundamentally, leaders must model Christian love, a love that is not about judging but about showing others the Way. Openness, vulnerability, and establishing a common ground build trust, which is the most crucial part of any team development and should be built into any team formation. Catholic leaders have a rich deposit of faith to use in this task. Group prayer, Scripture reflection, and activities can form a more cohesive team, bringing people together under the uniting vision of Christ.
Gary Yukl describes a leader’s role in four categories (see Leadership in Organizations, 351–354):
- Seeking cohesiveness and unity by focusing on the common vision and purpose;
- Creating a group self-identity through rituals, ceremonies, and symbols;
- Establishing mutual cooperation and trust;
- Increasing the capacity to work together in reaching the team’s objectives.
David Whetten & Kim Cameron give several important skills in eight main areas that leaders can use to develop an effective team (see Developing Management Skills, 470):
- Orienting members so everyone is aware of the purpose, vision, and expectations
- Answering questions, ensuring information is shared with the entire team
- Being welcoming, bringing positive energy to team members, including new and potential members
- Establishing trust among team members through constructive, mission-focused dialogue
- Forging internal and external relationships to obtain needed resources
- Clarifying the team’s purpose and mission; keeping it on track
- Providing norms, expectations, guidelines, and processes to ensure effectiveness
- Fostering mutual respect and support, especially during difficult times or discussions
In practical terms for Church leaders, this can involve numerous types of activities, both during the team’s initial formation and within its regular meeting schedule. For example:
- Begin meetings with prayer
- Highlight and celebrate the unique gifts and diverse perspectives of the team
- Open a discussion with short spiritual reflections or Scripture readings
- Identify ways to express the team’s common interests and values (e.g., adopting a patron saint, creating a special logo, having a phrase or slogan to quickly explain the team’s mission, etc.)
- Set aside time for prayer outside of meetings (e.g., special Masses, team Holy Hour, or saying the Rosary together)
- Encourage social interaction and inclusiveness among the larger community as a recruiting tool
- Communicate the team’s progress through various channels, including social media
- Conduct periodic open brainstorms to generate ideas for improvement
- Create opportunities to share values, goals, concerns, etc.
Reflect on the word Yachad and its definition above. Then, in this exercise, brainstorm ways to describe each word on the sheet (one, holy, catholic, apostolic, and Church). Finally, consider as a team how you might bring Yachad to your organization in its service of God and neighbor.
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