Monday, November 11, 2013

"Lessons In Leadership: It's Not About You. (It's About Them)"

From NPR.   I've been noticing over the past 5 years or so that the word "leadership" has become a kind of mantra in the Episcopal Church.  Here's the "Leadership" section of the website ECF:  Vital practices for leading congregations.  Here's the "Leadership" page at the website of The National Association of Episcopal Schools.  Recently we were treated to a letter from TEC "Leadership" in which "leadership" referred to itself by that name in the third person.

There is now apparently an "Anglican theology of leadership" - and it seems that some people are even appointing themselves "leaders."

There are many more examples; these are just a few I came up with in 5 minutes or so.   But this has been bugging me for quiet awhile.  I'm not sure why anybody doesn't seem to notice that talking about the church this way creates something quite like a caste system.   There rarely seems to be any attempt at all to engage the membership of the church as a whole; this to me seems very much parallel to the fact that there is never any discussion in the Episcopal Church about the "lay vocation" - but endless talk about vocational "discernment" for the priesthood.

Anyway, here's the article.  I really think "leadership" is going to have to get over its love affair with itself and actually attempt to communicate with the rest of us at some point.  Leaders can't appoint themselves; the "leadership" mantle is bestowed by othersAnd that means getting involved with followership (or whatever we're supposed to be).
Ronald Heifetz has been a professor of public leadership at Harvard's Kennedy School for three decades, teaching classes that have included aspiring business leaders and budding heads of state. Each year, he says, the students start his course thinking they'll learn the answer to one question:

As leaders, how can they get others to follow them?

Heifetz says that whole approach is wrong.

"The dominant view of leadership is that the leader has the vision and the rest is a sales problem," he says. "I think that notion of leadership is bankrupt." That approach only works for technical problems, he says, where there's a right answer and an expert knows what it is.

Heifetz trained as a psychiatrist, and he describes his view of effective leadership with an analogy from medicine. "When a patient comes to a surgeon, the surgeon's default setting is to say, 'You've got a problem? I'll take the problem off your shoulders and I'll deliver back to you a solution.' In psychiatry, when a person comes to you with a problem, it's not your job actually to solve their problem. It's your job to develop their capacity to solve their own problem."

Many intractable political issues, such as civil war, poverty or ethnic tension are complicated, and solving them may require a whole nation of people to change their mindset. As they approach these sorts of "nontechnical" problems, Heifetz says, leaders should think less like surgeons, and more like psychiatrists.

In such cases, "the people are the problem and the people are the solution," he says. "And leadership then is about mobilizing and engaging the people with the problem rather than trying to anesthetize them so you can go off and solve it on your own."

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