The following is taken from the US Army Leadership Field Manual. I find it to contain great advice that all of us in ministry could take to heart. The highlighting is my emphasizing something I see there.
1-51. At any level, anyone responsible for supervising people or accomplishing a mission that involves other people is a leader. Anyone who influences others, motivating them to action or influencing their thinking or decision making, is a leader. It’s not a function only of position; it’s also a function of role. In addition, everyone in the Army—including every leader—fits somewhere in a chain of command. Everyone in the Army is also a follower or subordinate. There are, obviously, many leaders in an organization, and it’s important to understand that you don’t just lead subordinates—you lead other leaders. Even at the lowest level, you are a leader of leaders.
1-52. For example, a rifle company has four leadership levels: the company commander leads through platoon leaders, the platoon leaders through squad leaders, and the squad leaders through team leaders. At each level, the leader must let subordinate leaders do their jobs. Practicing this kind of decentralized execution based on mission orders in peacetime trains subordinates who will, in battle, exercise disciplined initiative in the absence of orders. They’ll continue to fight when the radios are jammed, when the plan falls apart, when the enemy does something unexpected. (Appendix A discusses leader roles and relationships.)
1-53. This decentralization does not mean that a commander never steps in and takes direct control. There will be times when a leader has to stop leading through subordinates, step forward, and say, “Follow me!” A situation like this may occur in combat, when things are falling apart and, like BG Thomas J. Jackson, you’ll need to “stand like a stone wall” and save victory. (You’ll read about BG Jackson in Chapter 2.) Or it may occur during training, when a subordinate is about to make a mistake that could result in serious injury or death and you must act to prevent disaster.
1-54. More often, however, you should empower your subordinate leaders: give them a task, delegate the necessary authority, and let them do the work. Of course you need to check periodically. How else will you be able to critique, coach, and evaluate them? But the point is to “power down without powering off.” Give your subordinate leaders the authority they need to get the job done. Then check on them frequently enough to keep track of what is going on but not so often that you get in their way. You can develop this skill through experience.
1-55. It takes personal courage to operate this way. But a leader must let subordinate leaders learn by doing. Is there a risk that, for instance, a squad leader—especially an inexperienced one—will make mistakes? Of course there is. But if your subordinate leaders are to grow, you must let them take risks. This means you must let go of some control and let your subordinate leaders do things on their own—within bounds established by mission orders and your expressed intent.
1-56. A company commander who routinely steps in and gives orders directly to squad leaders weakens the whole chain of command, denies squad leaders valuable learning experiences, and sends a signal to the whole company that the chain of command and NCO support channel can be bypassed at any time. On the other hand, successful accomplishment of specified and implied missions results from subordinate leaders at all levels exercising disciplined initiative within the commander’s intent. Effective leaders strive to create an environment of trust and understanding that encourages their subordinates to seize the initiative and act. (Appendix A discusses authority, the chain of command, and the NCO support channel.)
1-57. Weak leaders who have not trained their subordinates sometimes say, “My organization can’t do it without me.” Many people, used to being at the center of the action, begin to feel as if they’re indispensable. You have heard them: “I can’t take a day off. I have to be here all the time. I must watch my subordinates’ every move, or who knows what will happen?” But no one is irreplaceable. The Army is not going to stop functioning because one leader—no matter how senior, no matter how central—steps aside. In combat, the loss of a leader is a shock to a unit, but the unit must continue its mission. If leaders train their subordinates properly, one of them will take charge.
1-58. Strong commanders—those with personal courage—realize their subordinate leaders need room to work. This doesn’t mean that you should let your subordinates make the same mistake over and over. Part of your responsibility as a leader is to help your subordinates succeed. You can achieve this through empowering and coaching. Train your subordinates to plan, prepare, execute, and assess well enough to operate independently. Provide sufficient purpose, direction, and motivation for them to operate in support of the overall plan.
1-59. Finally, check and make corrections. Take time to help your subordinates sort out what happened and why. Conduct AARs so your people don’t just make mistakes, but learn from them. There is not a soldier out there, from private to general, who has not slipped up from time to time. Good soldiers, and especially good leaders, learn from those mistakes. Good leaders help their subordinates grow by teaching, coaching, and counseling.
When you are commanding, leading [soldiers] under conditions where physical exhaustion and privations must be ignored, where the lives of [soldiers] may be sacrificed, then, the efficiency of your leadership will depend only to a minor degree on your tactical ability. It will primarily be determined by your character, your reputation, not much for courage—which will be accepted as a matter of course—but by the previous reputation you have established for fairness, for that high-minded patriotic purpose, that quality of unswerving determination to carry through any military task assigned to you.
General of the Army George C. Marshall
Speaking to officer candidates in September, 1941
The Center for Army Leadership, The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual, n.d.