The lesses and mores on the subject of leadership continue...
It involves less strategic thinking than I expected
Those five year 'blueprints' of the future in which goals and objectives are endlessly described with dotted 'i's and crossed 't's haven't featured as much as I thought they would. Sure, there are Business Plans, Staffing Plans etc that project into the future. But leadership seems to be more intuitive than I realised. It seems to be more about befriending change and complexity, reading the ebb and flow of the times, and then together with others trying to respond as best we can at the time. Sometimes I wonder if the intuitive stuff is the action in the picture while the strategic stuff is more the frame that holds the picture together...
It involves more power than I expected
My experience of leadership was very limited prior to coming into this role. Very early on I got very scared by how my comments as a principal to a church about a student was so influential in their future. This is a biggie! In today's world 'power' has replaced 'truth' as the currency of concern. People are very sensitive to abuses of power and displays of power and so they should be. So I resolved to reflect deeply on how one depowers leadership while still exerting influence. Max DuPree's 'leading without power' phrase provided the spark. The biblical imagery of servant and shepherd and steward and sage helps. Sharing information as early and as fully and as written as possible helps. Finding ways to acknowledge God as the leader with all others as his sub-contractors helps. Honour what has gone before helps. Spreading leadership and delegating well helps. Trimming down what is compulsory (or removing it all together) to a bare minimum sure helps. That is a few ideas on de-powering, maybe you have some others?
It involves less victory than I expected
I am trying to alternate my 'more' and 'less' words :) What this one really is about is failure. We all know that the real learning comes in the failure. It is true! But I have been surprised how much it can stick around and how hard it is to name it and move on from it. When the good times roll, a whole lot of people are involved in making that success happen and it is so important to acknowledge that and 'forward' credit onto the ones who actually made it happen and celebrate as a group. Plus trumpeting success in the Kiwi context is counterproductive. However, talking with other leaders, it seems that absorbing the failure, the criticism, and the disappointment comes with the territory of leadership. These aren't 'forwarded' in that same sense. They are processed more personally and in other ways. This is where 2 Corinthians becomes precious, experiencing God's grace amidst the weakness. But it still makes leading to be more uphill than I expected with a little less of the adrenalin and enthusiasm and joy associated with savouring victory.
It involves more coaching than I expected
This industry has grown, hasn't it? Supervisors, mentors, spiritual directors, coaches ... Sometimes I wonder if they can usurp the function which God wants to play in our lives - does it say "Cast all your anxiety on your mentor" in 1 Peter 5:7? I don't think so!? Nevertheless each one has their place. The one I've valued the most is the coach. People who believe in me enough to show me how to do it and then prevail with me while I learn to do it. It is both humbling and energising for me.
It involves less gifting than I expected
We can get carried away by leading being a function solely of things like personality, charisma, genes, style, mana, or gifts... I am surprised just how much of leading isn't these things. It is far more about moulding better character and learning new skills while being obedient to the call of God to lead. Leading seems to start with the art of building trust. It operates a bit like a bank. You make deposits. You make withdrawals. You get in trouble when you withdraw stuff that has not been deposited. And the healthy deposits with the best returns are character issues. The New Testament is full of this (I Thess2; Gal 5:22-26; Eph 4-5...) as it uses a clothing image to urge us to take-off stuff and put-on other stuff: like humility, perseverance, self-control, forgiveness, love, kindness etc. I am learning that the effectiveness of my leading is directly related to the presence or absence of these character-istics growing in my life.
A final comment. Some months ago I posted a comment on 'the gospel of community?' in which I wondered aloud whether 'community' was becoming its own gospel today. Just get community going and lives will be transformed and the mission of God will be accomplished.
I also wonder whether leadership is becoming its own gospel. Is its importance being overstated today? Just get effective leadership in place at every level and lives will be transformed and the mission of God will be accomplished...