What Do Leaders Do?
Are Christian Ministers leaders? Yes. Is Leadership a good metaphor for Christian Leadership? Not really. Confused? You probably should be. Last week whilst replying to John Smulo‚Äôs thoughts on Christian Leadership, I noted my struggle with seeing ‚Äúleadership‚Äù as a dynamic replacement for Jesus‚Äô metaphor of the Shepherd (thanks again to Spike and Toni for […]
Are Christian Ministers leaders? Yes. Is Leadership a good metaphor for Christian Leadership? Not really. Confused? You probably should be.
Last week whilst replying to John Smulo‚Äôs thoughts on Christian Leadership, I noted my struggle with seeing ‚Äúleadership‚Äù as a dynamic replacement for Jesus‚Äô metaphor of the Shepherd (thanks again to Spike and Toni for some helpful comments on how the idea of Shepherding might speak to us today).
Yesterday, I was reading through some Harvard Business Review excerpts and the following quote from John P. Kotter (2001) caught my eye,
‚ÄúWhat leaders really do is prepare organisations for change and help them cope as they struggle through it.‚Äù
Despite the business-speak, there is something here that resonates with my experience of ‚Äúleadership.‚Äù Postmodern ministry is about Christianity in flux, about facing the inevitability of cultural change, about coping with and flourishing through glocalisation. A leader sees the change that will be required and is there for their fellow-believers as they adapt to that change.
Any meaningful leadership will be prescient. It will have a sense of the future; the challenges it presents and the cost of adapting to it. Being Christian it will also have a sense of the past, the story that informs or faith. If that creates for you an image of a minster with one foot in the past and one foot in the future while the present kicks them in the nether regions – well, no-one said it would be easy!
If you watch the recent interview with Rick Warren and Gregory Boyd, I think you can see leadership in action. Here are two conservative leaders facing the reality of the world in which they are called to do mission. It is not about zigging when others zag, it is about responding to the evidence of cultural change and the dissolution of practices that no longer work. Not everyone copes well with cultural change, not everyone wants to let go of familar but failing practices.
The HBR article highlighted some differences between management (planning, budgeting, staffing, controlling) and leadership (vision, aligning people, inspiration and motivation). I‚Äôm deeply cynical about vision language in churches, largely because most ‚Äúvisions‚Äù that have been presented to me were little more than pre-packaged ideas masquerading as spiritual insight. So I was interested when Kotter said,
‚ÄúMost discussions of vision have a tendency to degenerate into the mystical. The implication is that a vision is something mysterious that mere mortals, even talented ones, could never hope to have. But developing good business direction isn‚Äôt magic. It is tough, sometimes exhausting process of gathering and analyzing information. People who articulate such visions aren‚Äôt magicians but broad-based strategic thinkers who are willing to take risks.‚Äù
Hard work, analysis, evidence and risk. Does that sound like your vision-setting agenda?
If there is something in the leadership discourse that resonates with my experience of ministry, it is this – responding to the real world changes in culture and the anxieties and problems that raises for people of faith. Anyone can sequester themselves in a private study and come up with a wish-list of semi-spiritual sounding aspirations. But setting a course that navigates our changing social reality and the challenges it presents for mission and faith, that is leadership. It also ‚Äúde-centres‚Äù the ‚Äúleader‚Äù since they are neither the subject, nor object of the leadership they embody.
Those are some incomplete thoughts for now – it‚Äôs a subject I will probably return to again in future.
[tags] Leadership, Ministry, Vocation [/tags]