Leading by Discrepancy

Painting the picture of what is and what could be

One of the best "hands-on" conferences I attend regularly is the Xenos Summer Institute. In one breakout session, Dennis McCallum (co-lead pastor of Xenos Christian Fellowship) talked about a leadership tool known as "leading by discrepancy."

Let's say you or your church has a vision for what group life should be, but your small group doesn't resemble that vision. What do you do? One of the things you can do is help your group clearly see the discrepancy between their current situation and what could be. The process goes like this:

First, cast a vision or describe a "picture" to your group of a different life, a better life, a higher standard of performance, or healthier relationships. Be specific. You may need some resources from church leadership to help you paint this "word picture."

Then, have the group honestly evaluate and truthfully discuss how the group is doing at living out that vision. As the leader, model the honesty and tone you are looking for in other's responses. Make the discussion safe by re-emphasizing confidentiality and your group covenant so your group members are tempted to "sugarcoat" their evaluations of the current situation.

And without a condemning or judgmental tone, summarize the discussion and state: "Here's where we want to go, and here's where we are." When you paint these two pictures well, you create a discrepancy in your group's mind.

Provided your communication doesn't leave your people in despair or in anger, this can be a powerful motivator for your group.

That's leading by creating discrepancy. It's not demanding "this is where we are going" and it's not accusing your group of failing. It's casting a vision and accurately evaluating and naming where you are at, and allowing people to clearly see the difference. Once people see the two pictures clearly and compellingly, they are more likely to be self-motivated to grow and transform. As you lead your group to the next level, try leading by discrepancy.

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