For 10 years, I was part of a missionary medical team that served thousands of patients every year. We worked together for long days in very adverse conditions. We traveled long distances together on tough roads and even had to camp out on a few occasions. Our small team was like a family. We knew each other deeply, shared, and prayed for each other’s struggles, and celebrated each other’s victories. It was a joy to work with that team and we are still friends 15 years later. Not every workplace is like that, though. I have seen teams with toxic relationships and a less than friendly work environment.

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It’s a Culture

Every work environment or team develops an organizational culture, which can be defined as:

“The set of values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization.”

A strong and healthy organizational culture is key to running a successful organization, whether it’s a church, non-profit, or business. On the other hand, a dysfunctional culture can be disastrous to the mission of any organization.

It’s Shaped by Leadership

Every employee or volunteer on your team has a measure of influence over the organization,  but ultimately, it is up to the leader(s) to shape the culture by the way they live and lead. As a leader, it will be up to you to take steps to help shape (or reshape) the culture of your organization, so it can be the best church, non-profit, or business for God’s glory. Let me suggest four actions that you can take to shape a healthy culture in your leadership.

  1. Encourage Transparency and Accountability: Few things are more damaging to a team than secrets and gossip. The best teams function as loving families where everyone is known and knows others.

  2. Delegate Decision-Making Authority: I remember the frustration of having been given responsibility without authority to make decisions on the matter. Empowerment means giving every person the autonomy to make decisions within the scope of their function.

  3. Listen and Value Every Opinion: Sometimes the best solutions come from unlikely people, precisely because they are not bound by the “way things are done” mentality of experts.  

  4. Encourage Cross-Departmental Communication: A few years ago, someone helped us to see how different departments at ILI were operating in silos, isolated from each other. The simple decision to share information has done wonders to improve the culture among our staff.

It’s Servant Leadership

As servant leaders, our responsibility is to create an organizational culture that focuses on the people we are called to serve. That can be our customers, church members, or clients. A healthy culture also serves the interests of the team itself, and ultimately furthers the organization’s vision and mission. To you and I, that means cooperating to bring the Kingdom of God on Earth as it is in Heaven.

I can’t claim I did it intentionally, but as the leader of that medical team, I couldn’t wait to go out and to serve alongside my team. You will experience similar joy if you invest time in shaping a healthy organizational culture in your leadership.