Leadership: Building Up Leaders Down Under

How Australia’s Arrow Leadership Grows Servants and Their Teams

Julian DunhamNot long after Rev. Julian Dunham became Arrow Leadership’s program director, he completed a Leading From Your Strengths profile during coaching training with Ministry Insights, sponsored by Willow Creek Australia. He’d set out to be better able to equip the emerging leaders his ministry serves, but along the way he came to understand himself and those around him in a whole new way. “It changed my world,” said Julian. He’d undertaken other behavioral assessment before, but the Leading From Your Strengths profile was simple and accessible. The profile provided a unique opportunity for building up leaders.

Since then, Dunham and his team have integrated the profiles as part of Arrow’s Leadership Program, a 2-year in-service development experience for Christian leaders and parachurch workers aged 25 to 40.  The first module focuses on character and self-awareness. The profiles have played a major role in moving participants towards a deeper level of self-understanding “We’ve tried other behavioral assessments,” says Julian. “Leading From Your Strengths is the best we’ve used for this context.”

But in the process of helping leaders identify their strengths, Julian and his Arrow team also discovered that the profiles address one of the biggest challenges in the church in Australia: difficult team relationships.

Understanding Strengths Helps Leaders to Grow

Many of the struggles come down to staff members simply not understanding themselves or each other. Such was the case with Arrow participant Doug, a pastor, an off-the-chart optimist when it came to processing information. He was a creative, inspiring visionary who often acted on impulse. It was not unusual for Doug to get an idea while driving to church Sunday morning, formulate it fully in his mind by the time he was ready to preach, and announce plans to his congregation … without consulting anyone.

Meanwhile, out in the pews sat church board chairman Bruce, an off-the-chart realist when it came to processing information. As Bruce heard Doug’s plans from the pulpit, his logical, analytical mind would begin to race with thoughts like, “Has he budgeted this? … has he booked the rooms? … does he realize that event will come immediately after a very busy period? … doesn’t he know the board’s procedures for approving ventures like this?

Bruce would then call Doug and schedule a meeting – one Doug always approached with trepidation. As Bruce listed all the reasons why Doug’s idea couldn’t, wouldn’t, or shouldn’t work, Doug would become increasingly discouraged. He couldn’t help feel like Bruce was impeding momentum in the church by continually shutting down new initiatives.

But when Doug and Bruce completed the Leading From Your Strengths profiles, Doug experienced an overwhelming “Ah ha” moment. The two met immediately.  “I promise that I won’t announce anything at church before I’ve talked it over with you,” said Doug. “But I need you to change your language with me a little. Rather than coming to me with a list of reasons why we can’t do something, please come to me with a list of steps we need to take in order to achieve the outcome.” Doug came to appreciate Bruce’s ordered, fact-based thinking. In turn, Bruce learned to express affirmation for Doug’s passionate enthusiasm. The relationship between the two leaders changed overnight.

Understanding Strengths Helps Teams to Grow

As Arrow participants experience firsthand benefits of understanding their strengths, they invite Julian to conduct a Leading From Your Strengths team-building program with their staffs. “More often than not, I say no,” Julian explains. “It’s better that they run the exercise themselves.”

That empowers leaders and teams. One youth pastor’s conflict with a key leader about procedures had led to a major argument. The leader quit. Not long afterward, the staff participated in the team building process. As members completed the profiles and discussed the results, they realized that they needed to define specific procedures so that they could all be on the same page. The youth pastor and estranged leader came to understand how they processed rules and procedure differently. They were able to reconcile – and she rejoined the team.

Self-Awareness and Team-Building: Two Halves of the Story

Self-awareness is vital, but it’s been only half the story when it comes to how understanding strengths has benefited Australian leaders.

When these servants realize that not everyone operates the way they do, a whole new world opens up for them.  “Perhaps for the first time they appreciate the strengths that others bring to their team … strengths that may have even frustrated them in the past,” says Julian. Building up leaders becomes a group process. Teams discover and use their God-given strengths and become stronger together.

“I wish all leaders would undertake the profile process,” says Julian. “They’re simple and cost-effective. It can’t be any easier to make a big difference for both you – and your staff.”

Rev. Julian Dunham served as a church pastor for 17 years before joining Arrow Leadership (Victoria, Australia) as Program Director in 2008. Learn more about how Arrow Leadership is impacting Australia’s leaders on the ministry’s website.


More about how other ministries use Leading From Your Strengths profiles

One-on-One Coaching Leads to a Whole New Purpose

Successful Staffing Through Team Coaching