Thinking logically about leadership

13 12 2008

Logical thinkers love linkages – and cause and effect linkages are particularly satisfying.  Of course not all cause and effects are cleanly linked so we often go with corollaries to allow for some slippage.  Much of this blog has focused on leadership and leaders but not much has been said about non-leaders (perhaps a bit elitist?).  Well here’s a post that includes the non-leaders – specifically how leaders effect non-leaders.

I recently read a paper titled Leadership in the New Testament (2007) by Len Hjalmarson, a DMin student at Trinity Western Seminary.  If you read this blog more than occasionally Len will be familiar to you – he has an excellent blog – – that I read regularly and have quoted from on earlier posts. I was struck by a correlation he drew between practices of the modern church and the effect on believers in such churches.  As leaders we are often frustrated with why so few people serve in the local church – I think the corollary Len presents in his paper helps paint the cause and effect picture explaining that frustration:

The modern church generally is (“cause”):

  • Leader centered
  • Program driven
  • Dualistic
  • Isolationist
  • Consumer driven
  • Seeker sensitive
  • Information oriented
  • Attractional

As a result, believers in the modern church tend to be (“effect”):

  • Passive
  • Self-centered
  • Undisciplined
  • Individualistic
  • Un-Christ like

Staying with the logical framework one would conclude a different and more desirable “effect” could be achieved if the “cause” part of the equation adjusted.  Len states that the church needs to become:

  • De-centered
  • Leaderful
  • Formational
  • Covenanted community
  • Missionally engaged

To make these changes leaders need to embrace paradox, admit how little we know, and be prepared to grieve the loss of the old world along with the identity we personally invested in those places and ways.  To do this we need nothing less than divine intervention and conversion. We can’t merely graft a new theory of formation onto an old root; we need a new tree. We are dealing with believers that don’t even see the need for spiritual formation.

More specifically, leaders need to get better at:

  • Supporting self-organizing activities
  • Creating conditions rather than giving directions
  • Moving from an activist stance to a reflective stance
  • Focusing on conversations that lead to clarity of purpose
  • Creating a learning culture by encouraging continual questioning
  • Rewarding innovation
  • Facilitating connections
  • Calling people together often so that everyone gains clarity about who we are, who we’ve just become and who we are becoming (by doing this leaders don’t have to undertake the task of trying to hold it all together)

Nobody in charge

20 11 2008

harlanclevelandlLife is theatrical – both in the sense of being the actor/actress (leader) and the audience (learner). A well lived life arrives at a good balance between these two roles. When the balance is off, however, we veer off the road into one of the ditches – the ditch of just observing life go by or the ditch of leading without an astute understanding of context.

Harlan Cleveland lived a well lived life and lived it at broadway theatres (I think I’m living mine at a high school musical – and I don’t mean High School Musical). Harlan Cleveland passed away this summer at the age of 90. After reading his obituary Charles Hoffacker wrote: “I felt as though I was standing beside a theatre entrance as a jubuliant audience flooded out onto the sidewalk: I had missed a remarkable show.”

Cleveland’s authored a dozen books including Nobody in Charge: Essays on the Future of Leadership (© 2002). In this book he tells of how over the decades he reworked and refined a list of leadership attitudes essential to what he called “a generalist mindset . . . indispensible to the management of complexity.” Here are the eight attitudes he came to recognize through experience and reflection:

1) A lively intellectual curiosity; an interest in almost everything – because everything really is related to everything else, and therefore to what you’re trying to do, whatever it is.

2) A genuine interest in what other people think and why they think that way – which means you have to be at peace with yourself for a start.

3) A feeling of special responsibility for envisioning an alternate future – a future that’s different from a straight-line projection of the present.

4) A hunch that most risks are there not to be avoided but to be taken.

5) A mindset that crises are normal, tensions can be promising and complexity is fun.

6) A realization that paranoia and self-pity are reserved for people who don’t want to lead.

7) A sense of personal responsibility for the general outcome of your effort.

8) “Unwarranted optimism” and a love for innovation – the conviction that there must be some more upbeat outcome than would result from adding up all the available expert advice.

The church…

15 11 2008

“The church… cannot be content to play the part of a nurse looking after the casualties of the system.  It must play an active part both in challenging the present unjust structures and in pioneering alternatives.”

– Donal Dorr

We need to be sanguine

15 11 2008

roxburghAlan Roxburgh’s comment to a recent article titled New Economic Paradigms & Church Leadership, by Sara Jane Walker, deserves serious attention.  His comment reveals the starke reality of the challenge facing church leaders in North America.  Following is the fourth paragraph from his comment: 

“We need to be quite sanguine about the current state of churches in terms of [the] issues of economic and social change. As the ambiguity and anxiety deepens they tend to become places people seek for security and re-assurance rather than transformation and the spiritual disciplines to live hopefully through transitions that many of [them] may never see end. At the same time I am aware that something else is happening ‘off stage’ just now. More and more Christians in North America (some suggest the number is moving up into the high 40% range) are dropping out of church as they’ve known it. They have not ceased to be Christians they just can’t function inside the church-denomination systems that shaped the 20th century. This is not, I believe, about taste (music, preaching, programs etc) or religious goods and services. I don’t think that read will hold water much longer (certainly not in Canada). Something much deeper is happening. Across all age ranges, this drop out has to do with a deepening sense that the churches are irrelevant in terms of issues people are facing in their lives in cultural transition. We could say much more about that but the point is that very, very soon a huge number of existing churches will find themselves in the position where the economic model out of which the church has functioned is no longer viable. This means high anxiety for a growing number of clergy who have grown dependent upon the salary systems of their church bodies.”

Missing the point

9 11 2008

“The point is.. all the effort to fix the church misses the point. You can build the perfect church-and they still won’t come. People are not looking for a great church… The age in which institutional religion holds appeal is passing away.

“Church leaders seem unable to grasp this simple implication of the new world-people outside the church think church is for church people, not for them.”

-Reggie McNeal


9 11 2008


Primer on missional church

9 11 2008

jrwoodward32J.R. Woodward has compiled an excellent “primer” on missional church.  His post is here and a downloadable version is available here.  This is a great entry point to a wide array of catagorized resources.