Leadership Dynamics

Golden Compass Concept

From time to time the journey of any leader will require them to change gears and lead in a different way. That change of gear may be required by any number of factors:

  • A new position or pastorate
  • A new season or process in the life of an organisation
  • A new task in the work of leadership
  • The chapter following a major change, such as a re-profiling, conflict, amalgamation, or consolidation.

Sometimes we just feel in our bones that a different style of leadership is required in this new moment. The graphic below helps in getting a sense of what that change of style may need to be.

I can’t claim credit for the graphic. I learned it from Lloyd Rankin, director of Vineyard Fellowships New Zealand. And I have found it a useful tool for reflection with other leaders.


In this graphic the senior leader is at the pointy end of all four quadrants.

The Top-Down quadrant represents the kind of leadership that I first trained under back in the 1980’s. It says, “I’m in charge. This is what we’re doing. I’m doing this. You do that.”

The Democratic quadrant in its ultimate form would be the model whereby the stakeholders’ or members’-meeting makes executive decisions and tasks the senior leader to carry them out.

The Empowering quadrant represents the kind of leadership whereby the leader encourages, empowers and releases pioneers in the organisation to innovate, push the envelope and get their thing going within the broader picture of the organisation’s goals and mission.

The Inspirational quadrant is where the leader blazes the trail, saying, “I am doing this. Let me share the journey with you. Who’s in??”


A long journey in leadership will require many changes of leadership style

Each one of us probably gravitates to one of those quadrants as our home base.

  • The leader biased to top-down says, “We’ve got to get things done. And sometimes you’ve just got to lead!”
  • The empowering leader says, “Our mission has to be carried by people’s gifts and passions if it is to really prosper.”
  • The democratic leader says, “No change I initiate will last if it isn’t rooted in grassroots energy and aspirations.”
  • The inspirational leader says, “If I am not leading by example, then I am not leading at all!”

And all would be right!

But whatever your or my preferred leadership style, situations will sometimes require us to shift quadrant.


Benedict of Norcia whose journey in leadership in 6th century Italy took him through three quadrants – from inspirational to top-down, to democratic; and whose rule has empowered like-minded people around the globe in every generation since.

  • I love being in the inspirational quadrant. It is how I grew and led Jesus Generation for its first decade.
  • When I have led churches through intentional interim, community healing or transitional processes, I have spent a lot of time alternating between the top down quadrant and the democratic quadrant – sometimes to the extent of the board and staff, sometimes to the extent of the whole membership.
  • In seasons where organisations have entered a season of maturity I have switched to the empowering quadrant to release the fruit of the previous season of growth and maturation in the life of the organisation.


Circumstances tell the leader when a step into an adjacent or opposite quadrant will be required.

Let me encourage you to play around with this schematic. Ask yourself:

  • What is my preferred leadership style? Where on the map of my current situation is it needed?
  • What is the main leadership style required in this season of my organisation’s life?
  • How do I help signal to my staff and colleagues and the whole organisation what style is in play for the various aspects of our organisation’s life?
  • Are there stories and language that resonate with my people and that will help them to get a handle on these styles and the need for each type whenever they are needed?
  • What do I need to do to get the organisation into a position where my default style can get more airtime so that I as a leader can make my best contribution?

I find this a great tool for comparing personal perspectives with other leaders. (Thank you Loyd Rankin for passing it on to me!) Enjoy!


For a case study in every leadership dynamic described above check out Pepe Mujica in the video in the post “Because there’s more than one way to lead”