I remember the first time I was involved in a conversation about leadership using the rectangular table analogy. The concept was not at all new to me, after all it was in many respects (having spent 19 years in a uniformed organisation), the only model which I really knew.

But hearing a conversation defending rectangular table leadership as opposed to round table leadership was a new experience. Apart from a therapy group model of training as a psychiatric nurse, I had not really experienced a round table, and even then there were leaders of the group. 

Typically I observe the pull in this direction because of a history of being in a more hierarchical model which has either failed due to poor leadership or suffered under controlling leadership. I therefore do understand the reason why the discussion is necessary and why some want to experiment with round tables where everyone has an equal voice and vote. 

I am definitely experienced enough to know that there is pain and has been abuse of the rectangular/hierarchy based model of leadership, but that is never a good enough reason to dismiss it entirely.

Where there has been abuse, control, or difficulty in appointing a new leader, the ‘Round Table’ can seem like a good idea. Its heart is commonly to protect relationships, for everyone to feel equally valued and seen, and the decision justified, but it may not always achieve what is expected.

The truth is that attempts at Round Table leadership are in my observation more likely to damage relationships than to protect them. The ‘equal’ round table very often comes to a point of decision, conflicts occur and decisions have to be made without a supporting structure. Where there is no structure it is ultimately the relationships which suffer rather than where there is structure which can serve to protect relationships. 

Decisions, conflicts, reconciliations, ownership of failure all require structure and at the same time all depend on submission of hearts. The rectangular table will resolve these with submission, whereas very often the round table leans to compromise.

The following is a set of comparisons between the two models.

The Round Table

1. The goal of equal voices is often lost to the loudest voices.

2. There is no consistent place of submission

3. Can lack overarching purpose

4. Does not automatically serve something greater

5. Tends to dilute the gifts represented around the table

6. Offers no place for promotion

7. Risks getting too big to manage

8. birthed as an honouring and heart based model

9. Is often a reaction to abuse in top down structures

10. Denies the gift of leadership

11. Conflicts and decisions can destroy trust

12. Lacks final process for decision

13. Will dilute purpose and vision

14. Structured for fairness but denies true favour

15. Is likely to compromise in decisions, conflicts and problem solving.

The Rectangular Table

1. Allows members to speak without their voice being misinterpreted as wanting the final word.

2. Is built on submission and servant leadership

3. Creates, allows and protects the overarching goal

4. Draws everyone to serve something greater than the sum of the members

5. Enables each gift to serve the vision and greater purpose

6. Creates a place for promotion

7. Can be reformed in response to increase.

8. When led from sonship it increases the flow of honour & life 

9. Creates the venue for healing, and safety.

10. Models leadership and gives opportunity for all to grow in the gift of leadership

11. Is the venue for trust to be established

12. Has a final place of decision

13. Focusses on purpose and vision

14. Allows individuals to grow in favour according to the needs of the team.

15. Will make final decisions and solve problems through honour and submission.

I would urge you, especially in these times of change and frustration to be very cautious about adopting a round table model of leadership. It might seem like an appropriate response but in organisational leadership it rarely is.

God the Father, sent His son, it is a picture of heavens relational government, which allows for hierarchy, love, submission, and sonship. 

What we need I suggest is rectangular table structures with the heart of the round table.