Strategy for Lunch While Sipping on Style!
At the church I planted 12 years ago, I was the primary communicator when we first launched. I would like to think I was a good communicator casting vision, teaching God’s word, and inspiring all hearers to have a greater hunger and thirst for God and his ways in their lives. Overall, from the feedback and growth experienced, I would say I effectively communicated in this way.
While many loved my communication style that seemed kind of new and edgy, many was definitely not all. Many said I was hard to follow, that I was not concrete enough, and that while they many times felt inspired . . . they were not actually sure what they were inspired about. 🙂 So, not for this reason alone however, I hired a teaching pastor. He also was a vision caster, a good teacher of the word, and inspired all hearers to hunger and thirst for God and his ways in their lives. And similarly from the feedback and growth experienced, I would say our teaching pastor effectively communicated in this way.
Again, while many loved his communication style, who were actually the one’s opposed to mine, many was definitely not all. Many said he was too wordy, too authoritative, and too preachy. Overtime with our two different styles, tension began to build in our body. And at first glance it appeared to be a style issue.
At one point, in our young church body however, I came across an outline of Western thinking vs. Hebrew thinking. The chart below reflects some of the fundamental differences between the thinking that actually reflects two different cultures. But the funny thing was that while the chart was helping us understand the context and the cultural differences of a passage I was teaching on , it also began to help us see the difference in our communication styles was actually more of a culture difference than just a simple style difference.
|Life analyzed in precise categories.||Everything blurs into everything else.|
|A split between natural & supernatural||Supernatural affects everything.|
|Linear logic||Contextual or “block” logic|
|“Rugged Individualism”||Importance of being part of group|
From the chart above it was quite evident that I was a hebrew and our teaching pastor was a greek.
The lesson learned for us at that time was that while two styles can be effective at accomplishing the same purpose, culture was the bigger issue. Overtime culture trumps style and change will need to occur. We found that ultimately we were attracting two kinds of people that in a sense spoke different languages and ultimately needed a communication style that met there cultural need.
In this weeks reading, I believe we looked at three articles addressing leadership style in changing culture. Each article calls leadership style into question in the face and reality of major culture change. In the same way I think we learned that culture trumps style.
I loved the way Pema Chodron summarized this tension with here thought, “My question is how organizations can lead us not toward some predictable goal, but toward a greater and greater capacity to handle unpredictability, and with it, a greater capacity to love and care about other people.” I believe Chordon is acknowledging the reality of a culture shift and the need for a new leadership style. It initially sounds like just a style issue, but ultimately the new need in style is being driven by the change in culture.
Similarly in his essay, “Leadership in the Chaordic Age”, Len Hjalmerson writes, “Chaordic leaders are comfortable with paradox, and they lead by building consensus. Chaordic leaders empower the vision of all God’s people and leverage the power of networks, building a leadership culture. They are boundary-crossers and poets, who renew missional imagination and cultivate environments where people discover their callings in the world.” According to Hjalmerson a new leadership style is emerging because of culture shift. A Chaordic leadership style needs to be discovered and fostered because of the Chaordic culture created in post-modernity.
In “Broken Futures: Adaptive challenge and the Church in transition”, I believe Hjalmerson identifies the transitional window when culture changes and new leadership styles need are needed to emerge. Liminality is this space that Hjalmerson defines. “Liminality is a space in-between, a transition point, where old and new collide. If liminality is an intensely uncomfortable place, it is also a place of possibility.” I believe Hjalmerson, in pointing out the time and space where the “old and new collide”, is referring to culture and to culture change. The reference to possibility is that of a new way, hence, style of leadership that must emerge.
I strongly agree with the under- and overtones of these three articles and the articulation of the reality of our culture changing and a new leadership style being needed in our Western culture. The words like, “chaordic”, “adaptive”, and “uncertain” along with such metaphors of “map-makers”, “poets”, and “navigators”, demonstrate the culture change and the required response need in leadership style. In the end, like with the lessoned learned surrounding the early days of the church I planted, not only does “culture eat strategy for lunch” as I once heard Andy Stanely say, it also sips down a big ole glass of style as well.
Hjalmarson, L., “Broken Futures: Adaptive Systems and the Church in Transition” [draft chapter, pdf]
Hjalmarson, L., “Leadership in the Chaordic Age” [pdf]
Wheatley, M., “It Starts with Uncertainty” [pdf]