If we were to journey into the fray with family therapist and organizational thought-leader, Edwin Friedman, we would likely move with the cadence of the word “self.”
Self-differentiation from the surrounding emotional processes.
Self-determination of one’s values.
Exposing one’s self to vulnerability.
Self-regulation of emotions.
Leadership in liminality demands a proper sense of self. Frederick Nietzsche famously pined, “The one who has a why to live can bear almost any how” (adapted for inclusive language). First why, then how. I would add that only the one who has a “who” can obtain a why. First who, then why, then how.
As Diana Renner and Steven D’Souza contemplate effortless action, they posit, “letting go of the need to know, stepping away from at the activity of problem-solving, and turning off the stream of data paradoxically enables new knowledge to emerge” (Not Doing, 178, emphasis mine). Someone whose sense of self is found primarily as a knowledge expert and problem-solver, will counterintuitively hinder knowledge and problem-solving because they can not differentiate their person from their work. Without answering the “who,” ideas aren’t simply ideas, but an element of personhood. Risk isn’t risking an idea, but risking their very self. The soul of the person without a self, joins in with Cheap Trick to sing,
I want you to want me
I need you to need me
I’d love you to love me
I’m begging’ you to beg me
There remains little creative capacity for the common good into the unknown without first finding a self.
Creative problem solving requires Renner and D’Souza’s “letting go,” of the status quo, of the thinking that resulted in the current moment, of the simple, myopic solutions. If one were to let go, they would only be left with themselves. Would that be okay? Only if one has labored to answer the “who” in their lives. If stripped of labels, causes, camps and titles finds the leader without a self, then they are a leader at risk. Obsessive doing and analysis paralysis both stem from an improper sense of self.
Not so for the Christian leader. Identity in Christ moves beyond cliche, and continues to form, shape, and mold.
Those who have the One who will never fail or forsake, have greater reserves to draw on to risk and fail.
Those who have the One who holds them in His hand, have greater reason for confidence to let go.
Those who have the One who for whom and through whom all things were made, have greater reservoirs for creative solutions.
First who, then why, then how.
Steven D’Souza and Diana Renner, Not Doing: The Art of Effortless Action (New York: LID Publishing, 2018).