Tuesday, December 19, 2006

learning about leading I

The summer break is just days away. I am reading heaps of stuff on leadership in preparation for a DMin course on Leadership in March. And I am about to step into my 10th year as Principal of Carey Baptist College. So I find myself in a pensive, reflective mode just at the moment. I thought I'd post some of this stuff. With the help of a whole heap of people I've been learning a few things about leadership along the way...

It involves less vision than I expected
Is 'visionary leadership' a bit over-rated today - particularly if 'the leader' is expected to come up with that vision? I've enjoyed developing specific processes whereby vision is drawn out of those being led - staff and students and the wider constituency, in particular - and then seeing my role to be to bring these ideas together and basically run with their vision wherever possible. Afterall staff tend to be leaders in their own right and tertiary students are not children anymore and can have heaps of experience.
I've been surprised how little need there has been for me to be a visionary leader.

It involves more courage than I expected
I am more timid by disposition and this does not help. It is interesting how often I have asked a group of people who pray for me to pray specifically for courage. Maybe it as we face those to whom we are accountable - church leaders and/or government agencies. Maybe it is 'holding my nerve' through times of change. Maybe it is those times when I care enough to confront. Maybe it is just when I lose hope and lose sight of the gracious hand of God being on the college. Or maybe it is something as mundane as the marketing of the college. It is easy for marketing to be motivated by a fear of what others are doing. Carey has been more minimalist. Get staffing right. Get programmes right. Entrust yourself to a grapevine...
I've been surprised how much courage is involved in being a leader.

It involves less stress than I expected
Yes, there are times when a panic inhabits my gut and I feel stressed. But I expected this. However hearing John Sturt (at a "Sharpening the Saw" seminar - couldn't find it on the web) define the difference between stress and burn-out has proved to be a defining moment for me. Maybe I can post that list separately sometime. I had tended to see myself as easily stressed - as did others - when in fact my vulnerability is much more with burn-out which is more a function of emotion. The Bill Hybels' tape on "Surviving Leadership" (www.willowcreek.org.nz) was also helpful. In it he speaks of the 'emotional gauge on the dashboard of our lives' and how it can sit on empty, rather than full. Because my diagnosis of what is going on inside is now more accurate I think the 'medication I pick up from the chemist' is more appropriate too. It is about learning how to refuel and replenish more than it is about finding how to de-stress. [I have also found Medicine Man Chief by Renier Greef to be useful here.]
I've been surprised how little stress there has been as a leader (but plenty of threat of burn-out instead!)

It involves more wisdom than I expected
Let me explain. By 'more' , I really mean 'wider'. It is not just in the Bible and in the Christian tradition where wisdom is found. While I rest my life on those truths I have been surprised how much wisdom is found elsewhere. Three examples will suffice.
(a) From Peter Blake on the secret of winning the America's Cup ... 'spreading leadership throughout the organisation'. Brilliant! Find ways to draw people into the responsibilities of leadership and thereby draw out their leadership capacities - and watch them grow and contribute. (b) From Wilson Whineray, former captain of the All Blacks, when I finally asked him a question at the 55min mark of a 60min flight early in my time as Principal. 'What is the key to being an effective leader?' ... lengthy pause ... 'Surrounding yourself with good people' Brilliant! Find people who each do things better than you can do - and then rest secure in the knowledge of that fact and celebrate it. (c) From the title of a Max Dupree best-seller - 'leading without power'. Brilliant! Finding the ways to be influential without displays of power.
Again and again I find such wisdom in so-called 'secular' sources - a wisdom, rather ironically, that is desperately needed within the Christian community today.
I've been surprised by how wide the sources are from which wisdom can come.

Enuf for now. I have a few other 'mores' and 'lesses' to share later.

nice chatting



Andrew Butcher said...

Brilliant. Please write a book of your own one day. Having just taken up a leadership role I would add 'terrified' as a trait! But maybe that's just par for the course early on in the piece - mind you, it keeps me humble, which should probably keep on going even when I'm no longer terrified!

Paul Windsor said...

Not sure what to say, Andrew. You are very kind?!
I guess my motivation with these two posts is to help demystify leadership a bit for younger people and help make it more accessible and everyday. I think it gets elevated too much today.