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An Org is Like a Tree – Faith-based

The Relationship Model
“An Organization is Like a Tree”

Imagine that a friend of yours described his experience of working in a Christian organization this way:

“Ten years ago, I was at the bottom of the organization, but I was determined to climb the ladder until I reached the highest position I could. I never expected that I would be the top dog in just ten years. Imagine that, me on the top rung. Now I have a dozen people working directly under me, and I have authority over a budget of $20 million. Now I’m in a position to make changes from the top down to the lowest employee.”

This organization is NOT like a tree. Take a closer look at the language that we hear so frequently in Christian organizations.

“Ten years ago, I was at the bottom of the organization, but I was determined to climb the ladder until I reached the highest position I could. I never expected that I would be the top dog in just ten years. Imagine that, me on the top rung. Now I have a dozen people working directly under me, and I have authority over a budget of $20 million. Now I’m in a position to make changes from the top down to the lowest employee.”

Contrast that with the teaching of Jesus to His disciples, the soon-to-be leaders of the Christian Church. “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to be the great among you must be your servant.” Matthew 20:25-26 NIV

Imagine that an organization is like a tree. The more the authority, the closer to the base you will find it. The root structure that supports the entire tree is the membership along with the donors who supply the nutrients, but who are seldom seen. Together they are the final source of authority and resources.

Above ground is the trunk that bears the weight of the entire tree, the Board of Directors. All the nutrients pass through the strong trunk on their way upward to where the fruit grows. Connected to the trunk and looking like part of it, is the Chief Executive Officer, the only employee employed directly by the Board.

Then comes the Senior Management Team, the cluster where the trunk branches out into the departments of the organization.

Above them are the branches that in the case of organizations represent different branches of the operation.

The leaves reaching the highest part of the tree, supported and supplied by all that is below them, represent the staff. Each leaf is able to photosynthesize light, just like the staff member who adds value to the organization though his or her own set of competencies.

Somewhere long ago we adopted the “top-down” vocabulary of the world. We have copied the Pharisees, instead of Jesus, in the way we think and speak of our organizations.

We will understand far better the way that God has designed the relationships in our organizations, when we make a conscious effort to make the paradigm shift from “top-down” thinking to “bottom-up” thinking. Your organization is like a tree. Imagine that. What was it that your friend said?

“Ten years ago, I was at the leading edge of the organization, but I was determined to reach my full potential until I had the heaviest load I could possibly carry. I never expected that I would have this much responsibility in ten years. Imagine that. I feel like I’m part of the trunk of a tree. Now I have a dozen people looking directly to me for support, and together we share the responsibility of managing a budget of $20 million. Now I’m in a position to serve everyone in the entire organization from the base of the tree to the highest employee.”

I think this is also called “servant leadership.”

Les Stahlke, President/CEO
GovernanceMatters.com Inc.