Polycentric Leadership. You may have never heard the term before, but it may just describe how you strive to live out your professional career by serving in multiple, diverse centers at the same time. For me, that looks like being the president of OneHope, while also dedicating time to other pursuits like co-authoring a book with John C. Maxwell about transformational change, teaching graduate studies through Southeastern University, helping an entrepreneurial start-up, and serving as an advisor for several Global networks and movements. Each of these opportunities I’m pursuing correlates with one of my strengths or passions.
Leaders of all ages and stages are latching onto the concept of polycentric leadership. The emerging workforce of Gen Z and younger Millennials, in particular, don’t want to be pigeonholed within a silo of leadership but want to expand all of the creative ways they can serve in multiple centers at the same time. In our fast-paced, connected world, that’s now a possibility.
Polycentric Leadership with Excellence
Hear me out though. Polycentric leadership isn’t a call to spread ourselves too thin, wear ourselves out, or overcommit. It’s a practice of operating with excellence in every sphere guided by good governance. Polycentric leaders have the capacity to serve in many arenas. They’ve built their lives and organizations in such a way that they can be involved in multiple enterprises that they feel are incredibly valuable and have the capacity to do that with excellence. No leader on their own can best manage their time and stay healthy. Overlapping, transparent, governance is needed.
Personally, I have a presidential care committee, appointed by my Board, that helps me balance my responsibilities across these different spheres. This group understands the broad picture of my commitments. When a new opportunity arises, they evaluate it with me and advise whether it is an opportunity I should accept at that time. The principles of polycentric leadership work because it allows leaders to be able to quickly take advantage of opportunities and say ‘yes’ within healthy limits.
If you’re considering taking on another sphere of work, reflect on these questions as a starting point:
- Do you have the needed governance structures in place to succeed?
- Realistically, do you have the capacity to move forward?
- Every ‘yes’ is a ‘no’ to something else. What are you potentially saying ‘no’ to if you accept?
Lately, the OneHope team has been considering the question, “What is the highest and best use of your time at work?” Perhaps, you’ve taken personality or skills assessments before, like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or Strengths Finder, to better learn how you operate in your giftings and relate to those around you. While these can be helpful, have you considered lately your primary leadership strength? When we closely understand our natural tendencies in leadership, we can be even more beneficial to our workplace.
The Leadership Trifecta
Let’s explore what I call the Leadership Trifecta, three roles that work together in tandem to share and implement the organizational vision. Without all three skills present on your team, you’re in for a bumpy ride that doesn’t take you to your destination. The Leadership Trifecta relates well to having a healthy and productive leadership team, and as individuals, it helps us determine where to focus our time and energy. All great leaders should be able to operate to some extent in these roles, but there is one that you naturally gravitate toward.
Which do you resonate with the most?
The Catalyst Leader: Catalysts excel at being inspirational, leading others to buy into the mission and vision.
The Activating Leader: Activists excel at meeting objectives and moving things forward from an operational or management standpoint.
The Strategic Leader: Strategists excel at envisioning what the future looks like, thinking through how to grow and expand.
If you’re a good polycentric leader, operating in many different spheres of work, you need to be able to function within all these giftings. However, just like the Fivefold Ministry Test, a self-assessment for Christian leaders modeled out of the Book of Ephesians, at the end of the day, you will most naturally thrive in one role. You must self-select and seek wisdom from other colleagues on which role in the Leadership Trifecta you excel in.
Sometimes, you model a different role than your primary leadership trait, depending on the needs of the overall organization. Perhaps it’s a season of transition, and you need to more fully lean on your Activating skills to complete a project, but in another sector, the Strategic role is more natural to you. That’s okay, for a season. If I can find someone that is a better activator than I am, I want to empower them as quickly as possible, but no sooner. One thing is for certain, if you’re in a role that you’re not meant for, you’re going to languish, not flourish.
As you work through how the Leadership Trifecta relates to you and your team, remember to keep in mind that each role is vitally important. If you’re in a room full of leaders, do you know the Leadership Trifecta gifts that each person relates to? I hope it’s a resounding ‘yes’ because you’re on your way to being the most effective team you can be.
Rob Hoskins is the President of OneHope. Since taking leadership of OneHope in 2004 he has continued to advance the vision of God’s Word. Every Child. by partnering with local churches to help reach more than 1.7 BILLION children and youth worldwide with a contextualized presentation of God’s Word.
Read more by Rob Hoskins at goodnewsfl.org/author/rob-hoskins/