Leadership for City Movements: Seven Signature Elements

This article is excerpted from Reggie’s most recent book, Kingdom Collaborators (2018). Visit www.goodcities.net to see other leadership resources for city gospel movement leaders.

Leading effective city movements requires leadership that has some very distinct qualities. Here are some of the most prominent characteristics of leaders who demonstrate these signature elements.

 

  1. They operate with a kingdom bias.  These leaders understand that God’s kingdom is his primary activity on planet Earth, his missional agenda for people to experience life as he intended.  Kingdom bandwidth stretches across all aspects of human flourishing – spiritual, social, economic, emotional – every part of human existence.  This reality pulls them into the breadth of community life to partner with God in the desire that his kingdom come “on earth as it is in heaven.”
  2. They pray for their city.  These leaders have the city on their heart – and in their prayers.  They are burdened by what they see around them and intercede passionately for their community.  These leaders often create prayer networks of others who are similarly moved to “seek the welfare of the city” as a spiritual stewardship.
  3. They foment dissatisfaction with the status quo.  Most leaders find themselves troubled by particular issues and concerns that get their attention and energy.  City movement leaders excel in the ability also to make other people similarly dissatisfied with conditions and situations that they feel need to be addressed.  This fomenting is strategic; in other words, these leaders demonstrate political savvy in knowing the right people to engage and how to turn agitation into positive action.
  4. They combine social and spiritual entrepreneurship.  Where other people only see problems, entrepreneurs see opportunities.  Old problems present windows for new approaches and fresh solutions.  The only failure that entrepreneurs cannot accept is the failure to attempt change and progress.  Community leaders who create and lead movements that address key societal issues (literacy, human trafficking, economic development, etc.) realize that breakthroughs require the willingness to take risks.  Kingdom leaders view seemingly intractable societal ills as opportunities for inspiring hope and faith as they work for a better world.  Guided by this kingdom narrative they flip the dominant worldly script of pessimism and anxiety into one of promise and a preferred future.  
  5. They marry vision with action.  Successful city leader movers and shakers are not content just to paint pictures of what could be.  These insightful leaders understand that the dynamic of getting people dressed up with nowhere to go – fired up with dreams but no real plan for engagement – provides a sure recipe for cynicism and increased despondency.  Accordingly, they create on-ramps for people to join them in working toward the vision they inspire.  People are given options for how they can contribute to solutions, how they can take action to move the needle on issues that capture their interest.
  6. They call the party.  Leaders of impactful city movements are not Lone Rangers.  They are collaborative in their approaches, preferring a team strategy.  Equally important, they have the personal credibility for bringing people together to work on community initiatives.  They can put people at the table to work together.  Their capacity to do this comes from their having invested in developing relationships with leaders from other domains.  Leaders of city movements sublimate their own ego or their need to be the hero to allow other significant players into the effort.  Anywhere you find a cross-domain initiative addressing significant community issues, behind it will be a leader or group of leaders who practice high collaborative intelligence.
  7. They maintain a (pain-tinged) optimism.  Leaders of city movements demonstrate remarkable resiliency in the face of daunting challenge and inevitable setbacks.  Their firm grounding in God’s kingdom purposes enable them to soldier on with hope and faith and love.  

Start Here: Part 2 – Exploration to Engagement

In the first part of this two-part blog post, the focus was on discovering who God has brought to your city and what inner motivations has He planted in their hearts. In this second part the focus moves from discovery to engagement.

To solidify what you learned from the interviews, write a report based on what you and your team learned during your discussions with grass-tops leaders. Writing a report that can be shared with others is work that my Research Director and I often do at the request of city leaders. To move from discovery to engagement, you will want to have a professional document that serves as a milestone in your movement.

The people you interviewed will want to know what you learned from your conversations. Many will look to you and your team for guidance about how they might act on the inner motivations and passions they have shared with you.

Here are the final four steps that will take your work from discovery to engagement.

Hold a community report session: Invite those who you’ve interviewed, their families, friends, and other interested parties to a community report session. Have printed copies of the report on hand. Present the findings and offer an opportunity for those present to join a task force around 3-5 of the top identified pressing problems facing your city.

Launch task forces. Be sure to have one or two leaders for each of the top 3-5 identified pressing problems facing your city who are ready to greet those interested in joining a task force on one of the issues. The role of each of these groups is to discover what’s currently being done to address the issue. In the process, each task force may discover gaps in services, duplication of services, best practices that are under-resourced, and opportunities for developing an effective cross-sector collective impact strategy. (Check out our podcast on Axioms for Collaboration)

Become a learning organization. Ask the leaders of each task force to write a report based on their work about what is being learned and what they recommend. We recommend that members of the initial interview team form a steering committee to hear from the task force leaders and guide their next steps. In this way, the developing movement has an opportunity to grow in their understanding of how the ecosystems of the city are addressing critical issues.

Join with others whenever possible. Only launch something new if it is the only way forward. Our witness is best when it is incarnational after the pattern of Christ. We are at our best when we join with others who have a similar passion about a pressing issue in our city. If you do launch something new, be open to others joining with you who may not have a church home or who may not believe what you do. These kinds of friendships matter and become the bridge point for meaningful witness.

When you and your team become known as leaders who listen carefully to others and who are prayerfully looking to understand where God is leading, you will start processes that move the needle in areas critically important to the common good and to the work of God’s kingdom in your city. The process shared in these two posts builds relational equity (social capital) and alignment in a few areas. The experience gained will give you confidence to act when new opportunities for kingdom collaboration arise.

Start Here – Part 1: Exploration & Discovery

For more on this topic visit http://goodcities.net/resources/podcasts/ and select podcast 007 -“Three Stages for Movement Leaders”

Leaders often ask us “Where do we begin?” as they consider how to engage their communities in ways that result in measurable improvement. We have a bias toward the notion that God is already at work in every city. God understands the local context and has brought talented, gifted and motivated people to your city or community who are ready to advance Jesus’ redemptive vision for the common good. The place to start is discovering who God has brought to your city and what kinds of passions He has kindled in their hearts. So begin by asking good questions and becoming good listeners.

Collaborative leadership is the key to the long term well-being of cities according to a 2012 report by the Federal Reserve’s Community Affairs Division. At GoodCities, we have used our exploration and discovery process successfully to expand the quality and depth of relationships among people in cities where we work, launching a spirit of collaborative leadership that continues many years after the process began.

Below are the first five of nine steps in a process that will foster collaborative leadership in your city. These first five steps will help you and your team understand internal motivating factors that are already in the hearts and minds of key leaders in your city. (In the next post, we will delve into the last four steps that will move from discovery to engaging these leaders.)

Begin with prayer. We begin with a robust understanding that we serve a living God who desires that we would comprehend what He is doing. Our prayer lives need to be alive and attuned to the mind and heart of God for our city. Gather people you already know to pray together and to discern what God is up to in your city.

Form a team. As you pray, ask God to lead you in forming a team of people who are willing to join with you in having a series of one-to-one conversations that will reveal the inner passions of grass-tops leaders.

Make a list. Ask God to show you the grass-tops leaders He has in your city who influence others both formally and informally. Make lists of people who you see influencing others. Include people from government, nonprofit charities, churches, businesses, education, philanthropy, and healthcare. Your list doesn’t need to be comprehensive. If you plan to interview 100, begin with a list of 30-50. One of the questions you will ask, “Who else should we interview?” will build the remainder of your list.

Conduct interviews. Set a goal for each member of the team to interview two leaders each month. If you have 10 on your team this will result in 20 interviews being completed each month. Over a five-month period you will have completed 100 interviews. For the kinds of questions to ask in these interviews, contact us at info@goodcities.net. We can help you form a process that will reveal the inner passions of the people you interview. We recommend that the interview consist of no more than eight questions.

Write a report: Ask each of your interviewers to submit a report on each interview within 24 hours. This way the information will be fresh on the interviewer’s mind. When you have completed 100 interviews, write a report that reflects the answers to each of the questions asked. The report will reveal the level of agreement around several areas where those interviewed would like to move the needle in your city.

City Transformation through Faith at Work

Chuck Proudfit and the Origins of At Work on Purpose in Cincinnati

This five minute overview was recorded at our recent City Advance Conference in New York City. There is much we can learn from the stages of development of At Work On Purpose of Cincinnati. What Chuck talks about is central to the development of any healthy citywide movement that has city transformation in view.

The City Advance in NYC is one of three conferences that we offer through GoodCities for leaders of Christian unity movements in cities. Our next conference, “ONE,” will take place in Phoenix, AZ on January 27-29 and will engage leaders of John 17 movements working to make cities more redemptive places to live and work. We’ll have stories of unlikely partnerships between Catholics and Evangelicals, between people of different ethnic, cultural and socio-economic classes.