Unfolding: A Pressure-Free Model for Leading Your Team

Meet Michelle Oney. She's a friend, collegue, and leader with a vision to help individuals and teams discover how God has gifted them and where he is calling them to serve. Her words will challenge and encourage you. 
You and I carry an unexpected burden. And I wasn’t ready for it either.  
A few years ago, I moved into a new sector, feeling called toward ministry. Along with the transition came the weight of managing people with a “calling.” For 20 years I worked in university advancement and considered how I could “mold” and “shape” a team into the best team they could be based upon the talent presented. 
But a calling? That changes everything. People in ministry are following a call by God to be in a specific place at a specific time. That’s sacred. So as I began to lead a team on these terms, I turned to scripture and started researching how great leaders have led their teams. 
Here’s what I found—God has a beautiful model for managing people that relieves the pressure I felt. Maybe you’ve felt it too. 
I don’t have to mold a team into anything. My job is simply to position each employee to operate out of a position confidence and freedom within her calling and to help her unfold into the person He has designed her to be.
What does unfolding look like? Here are two scenarios:  
In scenario one, the leader imposes his assignment upon the team member and then the leader closely steers and guides the employee as he runs the project. In this scenario, the employee is just learning to become a “Mini-Me.” 
In scenario two, project assignments utilize the team member’s natural giftings. Individuals are allowed to grow and unfold in an area that is sometimes unexpected to the leader, but they are much more likely to be self-motivated and focused because they are working within their gift set.
The net result of scenario two yields both long- and short-term benefits. And it required much less time from the team leader. However, it required much more trust. The first time you, as a leader, trust God with the unfolding process, it may not be easy. The first time you and your team trust each other, you may all wait with baited breath as the process advances to maturity. But together you will accomplish more and grow into your God-given potential.  
Keys to success
Some key elements to the success of this model include:
For the leader:
  • The leader must be sensitive to God’s leading — His agenda may be very different than what you expect. Listen carefully to His prompting as to how your team is structured and the way goals are set.
  • Know your own calling — No matter where you are in the organizational chart, you can change the complexion of the organization by modeling open leadership. People notice teams that work this way because they are functioning with maximum power and joy.
  • Ask your team questions on a regular basis — It’s very hard to learn about someone’s passions or where she feels God is leading her if you don’t provide opportunities for her to speak honestly. Be open to what the Holy Spirit is doing in her life and listen well.
For the individual:
  • Team members need confidence in their calling — As a leader, you can help re-energize team members who have lost touch with their calling. Show them how they are making a difference in people’s lives. Show them how essential they are to the team. Remind them that all work, when surrendered, has eternal value.  
  • Individuals thrive when leaders provide an environment of systems and freedom — The freedom that comes with allowing team members to unfold is best balanced by providing systems of accountability and listening within the structure of the organization’s mission and strategic plan. It’s at this point the organization benefits most from everyone’s agility and obedience to God’s call.  
So how do we help those we lead unfold into all God has for them? Consider the following questions:  
  • Is God asking you to lead others by helping them identify their talents?
  • Is your team performing to maximum capacity? Would team members perform differently if they were allowed to explore areas of their natural giftings?
As you let go, you’ll be impressed by how God’s plan unfolds before you as you let Him have His way with His people in His organization.
What improvements have you seen on your team when you begin to let people unfold around you?  
The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.
Psalm 119:130

Amanda DeWitt is a freelance writer, coach's wife, and mom. She completed her bachelor’s at Dallas Baptist University and holds a M.A. in media and communication from Dallas Theological Seminary. When she's not typing away at her computer, she's chasing her two little boys or watching her husband coach high school football.

One Comment

  • Dominic Gordon


    Tremendous insight into leadership and spiritual gifts. Michelle lives out her calling and now is leading leaders!