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Digital leadership: Changing how we relate

Changes in Digital Leadership, Part 1

Editor’s Note: How has digital leadership and ministry changed in the last five years, and what can we anticipate for the future? Ken Cochrum, Vice President of Digital Strategies for Cru, shares his thoughts on the changing world of digital ministry and leadership. In our first post, Ken talks about one of the most significant changes he has seen since he wrote his book Close: Leading Well Across Distance and Culture three years ago.

Changing How We Relate

Previously, we had norms of working 8 to 5, of having the people we’re managing within 50 feet of us. Work was about where I sit and getting assigned tasks that I fulfill on time. It is now a given that people work remotely and digitally.

Two and a half years ago our organization shifted everything to Google apps. Our calendar assumes there is a video appointment and includes a link. At most of our meetings, at least 2 people are taking notes on the same google doc. Notifications have replaced email – we’re working together online through shared files, Basecamp, and Slack.

It’s a welcome shift. It doesn’t mean everyone is good at working at a distance. It doesn’t automate shepherding, care, and job focus, which are still essential functions of leadership. But it does facilitate collaboration.

This shift begs the question, ‘Is this just a different way of communicating or is it a better way?’

It’s a results-oriented method of communicating. We’re here to achieve something. Hopefully, if projects are chartered well, those projects mean we’re talking about something important related to why we get up in the morning. It lends itself to more organized thinking.

“Another aspect of the impact of digital on ministry is that it naturally invites collaboration with other ministries, churches, or anyone like-minded we can work with. It has changed the assumptions on the way we partner. I can have a 20-minute Skype call as a member of someone else’s project group, after looking at a user experience design for an app front end, and give feedback. I don’t have to spend $2000 to fly and stay in a hotel to share my point of view. It’s a normal way of how we talk to each other. Digital facilitates playing well with others.

Editor’s Note: Our next post will cover Part 2 of Changes in Digital Leadership. You can read more of Ken’s thoughts on leadership  at OnLeadingWell.com.



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  1. Jeremiah Chung

    Hi Ken, Thank you for all your great work with Indigitous. I think the Christians in the west seems to be aware of the potential of value of technology for mission better than the East and South. I watch your Indigitous #HongKong presentation online. Again I found language can be the barrier, I hope there will be more Chinese Christians be involved with their technical gift with their mother tongue and indigenous Christian ethos. In the heading with the word “leadership”, but I didn’t see it as the theme, on the contrast I see the focus of communicate and relate. After some years serving in leadership development, recently I found leadership is not the biggest need, but servant-hood. It would be great to see more excellent technical people serving in their market place/mission field for God’s glory.


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