My general music classroom was a continuous performance of music with high levels of musicianship and artistry at all times. My music supervisor actually took advantage of this. He walked in unannounced one day with two distinguished looking gentlemen in three-piece suits. As music class was in progress, they made their way to the back of the room and sat down. It was obvious, as the students were fully engaged learning and performing music and the sound was beautiful, the smiles on my visitors’ faces told me they were really into what we were doing. I had the students hand them instruments so they could participate, and in this way, heightened their visit. No matter what one’s music skill level was, every performance project had in it something with which anyone could be 100% successful. Surprise! My supervisor introduced the visitors to me at the end of the class as the superintendent of a notable school district and his head principal. You could walk into my room at any given moment and observe a performance worthy of a stage. But it was not always this way.
For the first third of my career, I was a controlling tyrant. I felt I had to control all music events like a prison guard, that all direction came solely from me like the infamous conductor Arturo Toscanini, and I imposed my perfectionistic, painfully-exacting methods on my faltering students. My personal insecurities drove my need to control. I did not trust them mainly because I was fearful within myself. Fear caused me to make process more important than relationship. I was a negative motivator by continually pointing out what was wrong instead of recognizing that which was right. Instead of discovering their strengths and enlarging them to absorb their weaknesses, I had them focus only on what they did wrong. Under these circumstances, success and motivation came only once in a great while. My students did not love me or love music.
My leadership was mostly (1) task oriented, that of production and getting things done. I had not yet learned that my students were human beings with feelings and that relationship created successful teaching. Three other leadership characteristics, in addition to task oriented, are (2) goal oriented, (3) team oriented, and (4) relationship oriented. Goal oriented is always pushing to completion, team oriented is working in the group and leading by example, and relationship oriented is keeping the importance of friends and fellowship uppermost.
Combinations of these four characteristics describe the four most common leadership styles. They are, in order of preference, (1) high task / high relationship, (2) high task / low relationship, (3) low task / high relationship, and (4) low task / low relationship. High task / high relationship is like a team captain that participates right in the game rather than being a coach on the sidelines. High task / low relationship is like a commander who pushes others to reach goals and like the coach on the sidelines, is telling everyone what to do but not out there playing with them. Low task / high relationship is like a caregiver who serves all the time, but rarely gets anything done or begins any new initiatives. Low task / low relationship is like a recluse who often retreats from the leadership role, and rarely gets things done.
CONTROL OR OWNERSHIP.
In any teaching situation, there is either control or there is ownership. Control is what a fearful teacher does, while ownership is what freed students do. I will never forget the day I experienced a major breakthrough on this—what an epiphany! A class had just crashed and burned a music project for the 100th time. Learning was at an all time low and nothing right was happening. They were not understanding my instructions on what to do and how to correct problems. In exasperation, I asked them to tell me everything that went wrong, what should be the right way, and how should all the wrong be corrected. Since everything was out of my control anyway, I took a huge risk in involving them in the problem assessment and problem solving. This moment was scary for me. I was admitting personal failure allowing myself to be transparent in accepting outside suggestions. I was uncovering the fear of failure within me in a public manner. To my utter surprise, the students accurately listed everything that went wrong even to the exact spot in the music where the collapse began. (All along I thought I had to explain their errors to them—instead they were explaining them to me—with amazing precision.) I remember saying, “All right, we’re doing it again, and since you know what went wrong—fix it!” Another shock, they did! It was perfect.
When I gave away control, my students became empowered to take control of their own learning and their own mistakes. I gave them responsibility to correct their mistakes as well as freedom to find their own successes. I stepped out of my control position and gave control to them. I released myself from the fear of failure, and when I did, my students stopped failing. They assumed ownership for their own learning.
From that point on, I became my students’ facilitator for learning instead of a dictator. Instead of pushing learning, I began to lead learning. Instead of barking instructions from the sidelines, I began to join their team and perform with them. I allowed them to find their own successes instead of attempting to impose success on them. We went from frustration to fun. We began to enjoy failures and laugh over them because we learned that failures were simply one or two steps right before incredible successes. My teaching progressed from high task / no relationship to high task / high relationship.
Future projects became explorations in the realm of pioneering, not settling. (Pioneers vs. Settlers were described previously.) It was fun to say, “All right, you now learned all the parts. Perform them together. I’ll give you a measure introduction, but then I’m standing over here on the side. I’m not conducting. YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN!” Their music would be so cleanly on the beat and beautifully in tune that involuntary tears would run down my cheeks. And yes, sometimes it was as bad as a dead skunk in the middle of the road, but we had a hearty laugh and then corrected crash-and-burns. So where could we go from here? We went to more complicated levels of precision. One day I felt real brave and boldly said, “Switch parts!” They all went to different melodic and percussion instruments, vocal lines, and movement parts and still were 100% accurate. Everyone knew everyone else’s parts. Amazing! The releasing of my fear and control gave them unlimited successes. Where did we go from here? You will find that explained in Out of a Job.
Pastor, of the four leadership characteristics and four styles, how would you describe yours? Are you happy with your present status quo? How is it working out for you? How have you empowered your church members? How do you feel about failures—yours and your members? Have you led your members into freedom of finding their own spiritual successes?
Your Belief System and Your Church: (1) Introduction
Your Belief System and Your Church: (2) Your Paradigms
Your Belief System and Your Church: (3) Bondage or Freedom
Your Belief System and Your Church: (4) Gateway Skills
Your Belief System and Your Church: (5) Teacher Accountability
Your Belief System and Your Church: (6) Talking About vs. Doing
Your Belief System and Your Church: (7) Student Accountability
Your Belief System and Your Church: (8) Assessment
Your Belief System and Your Church: (9) Bury Dead Tradition
Your Belief System and Your Church: (10) Teaching vs. Learning
Your Belief System and Your Church: (11) Teachers' Three Phases
Your Belief System and Your Church: (12) Excellence is NOT a Goal
Your Belief System and Your Church: (13) My Teaching Limits Were Their Learning Limits
Your Belief System and Your Church: (14) Unlearning Creates Success
Your Belief System and Your Church: (15) Pioneers vs. Settlers
Your Belief System and Your Church: (16) Real and Lasting Learning
Your Belief System and Your Church: (17) Problems With Memory
Your Belief System and Your Church: (18) Ownership Creates Success
Your Belief System and Your Church: (19) Not Perfect, But Honest
Your Belief System and Your Church: (20) Take Risks and Give Away Control
Your Belief System and Your Church: (21) Out of a Job
Your Belief System and Your Church: (22) KCAASE and Proverbs 24
Your Belief System and Your Church: (23) Responding vs. Reacting
Your Belief System and Your Church: (24) Only When Performed
Your Belief System and Your Church: (25) A Supervisor's Vision
Your Belief System and Your Church: (26) Glimpses Into the Spiritual
Your Belief System and Your Church: (27) One Reason Alone