leading and creating

Many years ago I was arrested by a sentence about leadership at the start of a book from Kouzes & Posner:
We treat leadership as a learnable set of practices ... we hope to demystify it and show how each of us has the capacity to lead. (The Leadership Challenge, xxiv).
Then along came Simon Walker saying similar things in his 'undefended leader' trilogy, reviewed here, here, and here. A recent digestion of JD Hunter's To Change the World finds him affirming that 'everyone exercises leadership to varying degrees' (256). I now believe this with all that I am. Much damage has been done by considering leadership to be the domain of a favoured few, mystically appointed and genetically enhanced to deliver the goods. It is usually a power play - and an abusive one at that. Far better to move in among a group of people and be committed to providing a context which enhances the leadership potential - the ability to exert influence on others - of each person. That has gotta be good for everyone.

In recent weeks I have noticed writers saying similar things about creativity. The assumption is easily made that some people are creative, while others are not. It is that mystical thing going on again. It is not long before talk shifts towards 'creatives' who seem to be a font of ideas, all random and fluid, coming alive in the brainstorms. And just as with leadership, an exclusive club of creativity emerges.

Theologically, this must be challenged. Every human being is made in the image of God and one of the first things we learn about that God is that he is relational ('let us...') and that he is creative ('let us make...'). So, as with leadership, it is far better to move in among a people and be committed to providing a context which draws out each person's creativity because it is there, by definition of who they are. Maybe, just maybe, creativity emerges best - as it does with God - in the context of relational teamwork.

Quite apart from theology the experts on creativity are saying similar things. I have been surprised by how much they emphasise the role which the mundane and the methodical play in the development of creativity. America's leading political cartoonist acknowledged that 'the actual work process is more methodical than inspirational'. Over a series of books - Visual CreativityCreative Strategies, and Creative Advertising - Mario Pricken virtually crusades for a creativity that is accessible to everyone. Academic definitions of creativity relate not only to originality, but to appropriateness; not only to novelty and innovation, but to relevance and occasion; and not only to divergent right-brain thinking, but to convergent left-brain thinking. The river of ideas does need to flow, but not to flood. It needs to be constrained and channelled if it is to be of any usefulness.

In my own journey, I rate the discovery in my twenties that I could be creative (after spending my teens thinking I was not) to be one of the most healing and liberating experiences of my life.

Imagine, just imagine, what church would be like and how the mission of God would be advanced if this were the prevailing view of leadership and creativity. I find myself thinking about this a lot. It is not to affirm that there are not people especially suitable, even gifted, for leadership and creativity. But it is to affirm that both leadership and creativity need to be demystified and made accessible to all.

nice chatting



Jeff said…
Paul, this is so refreshing to hear. I have been hurt by being in a context where I was told leadership was a gift. You either have it or you don't ... "and by the way, you don't," I was told. It basically turned ministry into a popularity contest. "Oh, and you just aren't popular enough ... and we can't teach you how to be popular." Again, you either have it, or you don't. This was so confusing to me because I came from a prior context that taught that the Holy Spirit can use anyone that makes themselves available to Him. One of the most powerful song lyrics to me is a verse by Caedmon's Call where they say, "I'm not what you want. No, I'm not anyone. But if you needed me, then I could be someone." Countless times I've seen him use people of such ordinary talent to lead and influence the world. Isn't that the Gospel? I understand everyone can't be asked to sing a solo at church. But I was told that despite my heart's desire to help develop a discipleship program, I would not be wanted. I could do it on my own. But I would not be asked to help lead it. I was amazed. Thanks for your refreshing thoughts. They are like oil to my soul.

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