By John Hebert, Team Leader, Louisiana Baptist Missions and Ministry
ALEXANDRIA (LBM) – The Book of Esther is the account of God’s remarkable rescue of the Jewish people from annihilation in a foreign land: A story of intrigue played out by larger-than-life characters.
The cast includes a beautiful woman, an evil villain and a godly man; and the plot, a man’s quest for power, takes place on the world stage within a power struggle among nations.
There are a number of spiritual lessons embedded within the larger context, but there is a study on “creating ownership” nestled within them that when teased out provides some important insights on leadership.
A little historical context helps highlight the key points:
— Assyria had conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. taking captive the 10 tribes of Israel living there.
— Then Babylon defeated Assyria in 612 B.C. and completed the destruction of Israel by invading Judah three times, ultimately plundering and tearing down the temple in Jerusalem in 586 B.C., and deporting the tribe of Judah and the Levites.
— In 539 B.C. Persia overthrew Babylon, and later when Darius was king, Persia’s world conquest was halted by defeat at the hands of the Greeks at Marathon in 492 B.C. Darius returned to Persia and died 6 years later, and his son Xerxes was crowned in 486 B.C., and began raising an army to avenge his father.
This is the setting for the 180 days described in Esther about the exhibiting of the wealth of Persia to impress nobles, officials and military leaders, and it is the background for the seven-day banquet so central to the story in Esther.
Here is the key point: Noted scholars believe the festivities were meant to garner these national leaders’ support for the military campaign.
In other words, Xerxes was trying to get his people to “buy in” to his plans for war with Greece.
This concept of “creating ownership” is an important skill spiritual leaders need to develop.
Not through “wining and dining” as Xerxes did, but through sharing the vision, relationship building, goal setting and creating a sense of belonging to something bigger than self.
Xerxes was showing his leaders the benefi ts of joining him. He was casting the vision for the campaign and offering to share in the spoils. His message was simple, if they would make this vision their vision, victory would result and make them wealthy beyond measure.
President Dwight Eisenhower once said, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”
That is the essence of “creating ownership.”
“Creating ownership” works in parallel with the leadership skills of vision casting and instilling intrinsic motivation. Its beginning may be as simple as engaging someone in ministry activity with the goal of moving them to greater ministry involvement.
The leader creates ownership by providing followers with the vital information and training needed to complete a task — while also giving them the freedom to complete the task and requiring them to accept responsibility for the results.
Followers need the freedom to improvise, or do it in their own way as long as their way does not compromise or jeopardize the outcome.
Likewise, they must also bear the responsibility for success or failure — and sometimes you have to let them fail and make them own the outcome. This process helps to develop followers into new leaders. However, giving ownership requires more than just “dangling a carrot” in front of someone to get them moving in the right direction. The crunchy treat might work to get a horse to pull the wagon, but it does not cause the horse to take ownership of the wagon.
Creating ownership might involve “dangling the carrot” of ministry, initially, but eventually it requires followers to transition from such external rewards to “taking charge” as motivation.
Dennis Watson, senior pastor of the Celebration Church in New Orleans, is one of the best practitioners of this skill as anyone I know.
He oversees eight campuses and ten pastors who guide thousands in worship and ministry each week.
The campus pastors get thorough training in all of the vital areas of their work, and are given some latitude to “do it their own way.” But in transferring ownership to them, Pastor Watson also holds them accountable for a positive outcome in spiritual growth. If the outcome is not satisfactory, he corrects, encourages and coaches his staff to be successful.
Breaking it down, you will find that when a person is well-informed and adequately trained, and is given freedom but also held accountable, he or she will grow as a leader and take ownership of the assigned task.
Your team will always need encouragement and coaching, and there are some structural and process issues that will be addressed in the next article.
But “creating ownership” will go a long way to building a team that is an extension of you and help you expand your ministry.