Thursday, November 12, 2009

Positive Leadership/Negative Leadership

The Fresh Start session (a con-ed and networking monthly program for priests new to the diocese) was interesting. The plenary was about leadership styles, and evaluating challenges as to whether they were technical (your car blows its clutch so you pay a repairman to replace it) or adaptive (conflicting values that require conversation, exploration, re-education, adjustment, flexing) . I think we all came to the conclusion pretty quickly that in the church, even things that appear technical on one level have some adaptive component to them. That roof that leaks, for example, may be technical in that you hire a roofer and he repairs it, but it may have something to do with a parish that has a skewed view of stewardship of the property, or it's the original roof that grandpa paid for and it's slate, and we couldn't possibly replace it with composite shingles, even though they're half the price of slate, because Granddaddy swore by slate roofing, or some other issue.

It's an interesting way to describe challenges, but one participant rightly noted that it has the possibility of devolving into a fire-fighting, fixit, kind of leadership that can start to feel rather negative. Where's the hope when you're playing Whack-a-Mole all the time?

I wonder if, to keep that from happening, the real sequence has to be the definition of a common dream or vision, a positive one, THEN the identification of what the parish does that already helps support that vision and what the parish does that might hinder or block the vision. Then the community is invested in removing the obstacles, to the extent that they can, to reach for the shared vision/goal.

It presumes not only a positive kind of leadership, but also a collaborative leadership. It's predicated on shared vision, and that comes from the group, not one individual (often the clergy in charge) that imposes that person's vision on the whole place. The process to get to that shared vision is nowhere near as efficient as the vision-caster model, but it surely stands a better chance of making a healthy congregation than dragging everyone along kicking and screaming. Jesus was not only divine, he was a great leader because he kept teaching and teaching and teaching until his disciples got it. It would have been more efficient for him to simply use his divinity to effect change in the world, but he chose to interact with people to carry on the work. They were imperfect, but they were committed.

There's a lesson there.

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