A hinge-pin. That’s the best word I can think of to describe the last two years’ work in the DMin, Leadership with Global Perspectives. A hinge-pin for my life and vocational ministry. This program is the swing point from what was into what will be. And more specifically, the last year has been the hinge-pin’s hinge-pin, tightening my focus even further. The reality of a shrinking/flattening globe has been foregrounded into clear focus in ways that I could have never forecast when I began considering this program three years ago. There are a few specific areas to which I will direct some comments.
One element of note in our present, globalized leadership climate is the press for more open leadership. It is normative for most people to simply expect an immediate response, to be informed and that their perspective actually matters. This is instinctive in most developed societies today. The world is, literally, at our fingertips and we just want to make sense of it all. Charlene Li advocates for what she calls an “openness audit” to be a regular practice in the life of a leader. It is important to note how an individual leader ranks in six different information sharing elements (explaining, updating, conversing, open mic, crowdsourcing, platforms).1 This is one area where I was surprised. Not so much that these are important to facilitating an open leadership environment, but that I do such an abysmal job at these! I’m realizing that I have fostered more of a facade of openness than real openness. I like for things to look like they are collaborative and enfranchising (an old man’s words for open leadership) while I pull the strings in the background. This year has provided opportunities that reveal this tendency. I’m grateful for this.
The idea of a “differentiated leader” (Concept put forward by Edwin Friedman) was another very helpful concept shaping my leadership posture. It is okay, preferred really, for a leader to have a backbone, make decisions, in a word LEAD, without always requiring consensus or group-think. It impossible to be that kind of leader without being a jerk. It seems that where group-think and consensus building is the primary goal, the net result is oftentimes to water down potential to the least-common denominator. Rarely are the weakest links strengthened and called up to a higher place… One Friedman quote of particular interest to me is:
The leadership lesson for a new clergyperson or executive is that without well-differentiated leadership, the past dysfunctions of a “pill” (think, pastor-killer) congregation can make a newly arrived leader ineffective as well. By contrast, a modest leader arriving in a highly differentiated “plum” (think, cushy) congregation can appear to be an effective leader, pushed along by the effective functioning of the congregation.2
This reminded me that context is so important. I have encountered what I thought to be “effective leaders” who were actually just lucky. Standing on the shoulders of previous, well-differentiated leaders, anyone can look like a rock-star! I strive to be the kind of leader whose shoulders provide space upon which future leaders may stand. My problem continues to be the deep desire to receive recognition and acclaim in the present. This provides an obstacle to being a well-differentiated leader. I continue to work on that…
As I conclude these two years’ studies, moving into the dissertation portion of the program, I find that I am markedly more aware of how events in one segment or area have profound impacts on others. Spending time in global cities, watching international news, discussing world events with a brilliant cohort of learners has opened my eyes to possibilities and eventualities that I could never have encountered if left to myself. For this, I am humbled and perpetually grateful. My intentional development of a leadership formation plan which includes significant input from others has reframed how I see myself and how I am seen by others. Self-awareness and others-awareness, coupled with an emerging understanding of emotional and cultural intelligence is providing a firm platform upon which God can fashion the second half of my ministry career.
This DMin program is providing the hinge upon which my life and ministry hang.
- Charlene Li, Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform The Way You Lead (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010), Kindle Location 952-990.
- Edwin H. Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix (New York: Church Publishing, 2007), Kindle Location 4547.