Have you ever had one of those moments when you realize you have been working in the completely wrong direction? (read that in Andy Rooney’s voice) This happened to me on Thursday, I was about to start writing my blog post for this week, and per usual, I started to glance at the other posts from our cohort to see the direction people had gone and had a startling realization. Everyone had read the wrong book. Either that or I had. (turns out it was me)
SO, I had to make a decision, do I not read The Leadership Mystique: Leading Behavior In The Human Enterprise by Manfred Kets De Vries and use the skills gained from Bayard’s How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read or read the book and be late with my post. I looked at your posts Elite 8 and since the book seemed to have been liked by all the posts I read, I chose to be late.
So, please excuse my tardiness.
I did find Kets De Vries book to be a valuable resource. I understand he is writing about leadership in business but I found plenty that will be of use within the scope of church leadership. First, Kets De Vries is one of the most qualified leadership experts in the world. He is the Founding-Director of INSEAD’s Global Leadership Center, author of multiple books on leadership, written over 350 papers on leadership and has spoken all over the world on being an effective leader.  Carol Kennedy writes of Kets De Vries “s unique among leadership gurus in bringing two distinct sets of academic skills to bear on the subject, those of a trained economist and a qualified psychoanalyst”  in describing his qualifications. She goes onto discuss his book in glowing terms ending with this, “it peels back the layers of self-deception to reveal how our hidden personalities, largely hard-wired since early childhood, affect the way we lead and manage others.” I would like to think I am my own leader, that I am in control of my decisions as a leader, as a pastor, a husband and father. I could not be more different than my dad if I tried, but I am adopted so, who knows, maybe it is a genetic thing. That is why leadership books and programs are so important. Not everyone in the world comes from a great home life. Leaders come from all walks of life and each has to forge his or her own path. So, as Kennedy describes our hardwiring, we must learn to grow past who we are, and as a pastor that should be my goal.
I would like to start with Kets De Vries chapter on The Mussel Syndrome. He begins the discussion with the illustration of a mussel, how we can learn about the inability for some to change in mirrored in the life of the mussel. “The mollusk has to make only one major existential decision in life, and that’s where it’s going to settle down. After making that decision, the mussel cements its head against a rock and stays put for the rest of its life”  He then goes onto write about the consequences of the mussel syndrome, the example was one that hit home because I watched part of it while in the computer industry. The Fortune magazine’s “hit parade” as Kets De Vries calls it, is a list of companies that are the most admired. He lists the qualities and then talks about the initial list in 1983, which had IBM at the very top and by 1997 it had fallen to 102. A precipitous drop, but not has bad as Digital Equipment Company (DEC). It dropped from number 7 to number 386, ended up being bought by Compaq and then Compaq was bought by Hewlett Packard,  I joined the computer industry in 1993, a time when the fastest PC was a 386/20 with a 212mb hard drive and 4mb of RAM. This was the computer only executives received and they got a 15″ Black and white or Black and Green monitor to go with it. By the way, this cost upwards of 5-6000.00 each. The industry boomed and manufacturers seemed to care little about controlling prices. The main players were IBM, Acer, HP and Compaq. Dell came in and changed all of that, where we were getting 18-20% mark up it soon became -1% on average. Compaq and IBM were the hardest hit, so I watched what Kets De Vries described.
Churches can act the same way, they are comfortable in doing things the way they always have done them. There are some churches that want to continue without change, in part because the way they did things reached many people. Just like companies like DEC who assumed doing things the same way would always work, churches have fallen into the same trap. The need to reinvent ones church does not mean letting go of who God is, but it can feel like it for those who have been through times where God has moved in a mighty way. To many times, people who see the need for change are very judgmental of those who do not want to change, and that judgement goes both ways. The issue should not be what I want in a church, it should be what is the most effective way to meet the needs of the community and reach people for God.
The questions from Kets De Vries book, found in boxes throughout, used to take the temperature of the leader and the organization can be adapted to fit any industry, including churches. To many churches are like the mussel. They attach themselves to a wall of “that’s not how we do things” and do not move. This happens in old and new churches. Talk to a member of a progressive church and they are just as against change as the older church. They may be seeing things move now, but eventually they will face the same problem. They have to be willing to assess and make changes just as Kets De Vries suggests.
 “Manfred Kets De Vries.” Manfred Kets De Vries. Accessed November 17, 2018. http://www.ketsdevries.com/biography/.
 Kennedy, Carol. “Choice of the Month: The Leadership Mystique.” Director 55, no. 8 (2002): 85.
 Kets De Vries, Manfred F. R. The Leadership Mystique: Leading Behavior in the Human Enterprise. Harlow, England: Prentice Hall/Financial Times, 2006. 48.
 Ibid 50.
 Ibid. 50.