Monday, February 12, 2007

Getting Personal Finally

...or in other words, let's talk about me!

Three years ago, my husband and I were leaders. We had a title and were in the inner circle of power. To be honest, our favorite part of the position was the involvement in peoples' lives. It was a privilege to be looked to for guidance and to be able to make a difference in someone's life.

Then suddenly, we weren't leaders. We turned in our title and badge. Before there were people who turned to us automatically because of our position, now there was no one looking for our help. And I had a leadership identity crisis.

I believe we, as people, are always expressing who we really are. If we weren't currently serving anyone, then we weren't leaders. If it is who you are, then it will continue to be true regardless of your circumstances.

Who are you supposed to help when you don't have a flock already corralled? Why didn't anyone still want our guidance? Because everyone we knew was at the CLB, and they were off limits to us, someone else's flock. I missed being involved in peoples' lives.

We said, "That's okay, we don't need to be leaders. We'll just retreat to the sidelines for awhile."

Occasionally, people would prod us, saying, "you can't just deny that you are leaders."

But what does that mean?

You see, all of this processing about leadership wasn't as much about what someone else is doing as it was about "who am I?"

We have become pretty comfortable on the sidelines. As one of our hippy friends would say, "It's a safe place maaannn."

Reading Graham Cooke's thoughts about leadership as serving/stewardship/slavery challenged me to reconsider the idea of leadership. Would I be willing to take on the responsibilities of leadership? What kind of steward will I be of what God has given me?

At first I was willing to only consider serving to the point that it didn't involve anything that remotely looked like leadership. In order to move beyond that mental block, I needed a paradigm of leadership that I could trust and models of leadership that made sense.

In the previous posts, I've already explained my current paradigm of leadership. Some of the models of leadership that make sense to me are the following:

Leadership as catalyst.
"A catalyst is the kind of person who gets things going and then fades into the background ceding control to members. As there is often no hierarchy and no headquarters the best a person can do to influence people is to lead by example."
(ht to Jonny Baker)

This is actually the most challenging model to me, but I think it is important. Those who launch something automatically have a vested interest and sense of ownership in it. That is the challenging aspect, directing without controlling, steering without dominating.

Leadership as empowerment.
"Leadership" is not a biblical mandate for New Testament communities. Service, however, is. Those who are in positional authority are there because of their desire to serve - to empower - others. They do not keep power for their own purposes. They give it away - empowering others and enabling them to do the same.

New Testament authority is not "power over". In fact, that is something that is explicitly forbidden by Christ. Instead, the greatest are to be distinguished by their great service - by their greatness in humility, in empowering others and in their self-giving.
(ht to Scott B)

This is the model that really excites me. To have the opportunity to draw out the capabilities in other people and create a place and opportunity for them to exercise the giftings that God has put in their heart is such an incredible privilege.

Leadership as hubbing.
"The function of leading within a Christ-cluster links other nodes, fosters interpersonal relationship and facilitates connection, and is open to getting out of the way, encouraging the new relationship to develop as those in relationship self-determine."
(ht to Dwight Friesen)

I love this idea. We can facilitate people in their relationship with the Lord, and we can facilitate relationships among the body of Christ in an interconnected way that is more fluid than the boundaried relationships we have previously seen in churches.

A couple of other links of friends who have recently written incredible posts on the topic of leadership. You don't want to miss these:

From Alan Knox: Don't follow the leader, follow the person already serving!

From Jamie Arpin-Ricci: An amazing list of characteristics of leadership that one should have on file but also especially in their heart as a leader.

Anyway, for me, there has been some nudging within lately to step up to the plate. I'm not sure exactly what that will look like, but I know that willingness is what is required of me at this time and a desire to be formed by the One who demonstrated a life of pouring out Himself for others.


bryan riley said...

I just happened to be reading along this entire series as you were posting this "personal" post. I wish I could have been a part of the entire conversation, but it has been fun reading it all through to completion this morning.

I am someone who often gets looked to to provide "leadership." I don't know if it is simply because I struggle to keep my mouth shut, because I'm tall, or what. But it happens. I've been asked the same question as you have been after stepping down from some leadership roles in our church.

I also find myself struggling in groups where there is no obvious leader or authority, which is why I've asked about how authority works in Christ's model of leadership within the Church. I like to think that if authority is clear, I am all the more happy to serve and follow authority. But I wonder how much of those feelings are simply my clinging to the world's way of thinking and what I've been taught.

Anyway, I'm not sure how what I've just written furthers this conversation, but you have definitely been used here to get my mind going about leadership, following Jesus, and the dynamic of all of those principles in the Church!

grace said...

I could relate very much to what you've said here, except I'm not tall. :)

At one time, I expected church leadership to run like a well-run business with strong CEO-styled leadership. Like you, I am tempted to step in when there is a vacuum of leadership.

All of these posts are the progression of how my thoughts about this topic have shifted. At first, I was concerned that changing my thinking about this indicated rebellion and individualism on my part. However, that really isn't true. I don't have a problem with submitting myself to and following someone that I trust is loving God and loving others.

The main thing I think is that when we have the opportunity to influence, we use that power or influence in a way that empowers others rather than using it for our own purposes.

I've enjoyed reading your thoughts about this. Thanks for commenting.

ScottB said...

grace - great series. I've been reading along and appreciating your insight and reflection. You said: The main thing I think is that when we have the opportunity to influence, we use that power or influence in a way that empowers others rather than using it for our own purposes.Couldn't agree more. I think that for all the writing and such that's been done in western Christianity about leadership, we've largely missed the boat because we've missed what you've articulated here. The way of Christ is the way of the cross - and what is the cross, after all, if not the ultimate self-giving for the purpose of empowering others?

Great stuff.

Robbymac said...

I'm really enjoying what Len Hjalmarson calls "leading from the margins". I just do what I do and be who I am, and occassionally I connect with pastors, or leaders, or burnt-out former pastors or leaders, and we just... connect. Talk. Enjoy a latte and hang out.

It's not the same as having your brain picked for ecclesial wisdom (which is good since I know a lot less than people realize), nor is it the same as being "somebody people turn to". It's just more, I don't know... normal.

I like it.

Grace, your blogging through your journey is going to be a great source of encouragement to many people. Thanks for this.

grace said...

Thanks for reading. I can't write about this without acknowledging that you were instrumental in shaping my thinking on the topics of power and authority while I was processing those thoughts. I'm sure that you recognize threads of the conversation we shared in October. I just want you to know that I appreciate the input that your writing and blog have had in my journey.

It is always nice to see you here. I am glad that you have been "someone I could turn to" since I first met you in blogworld. Whether we call it "leading" or not, you do it very naturally and gracefully, and I have always appreciated being able to follow you.

I'll be blogging a little bit about Exiles next, without the worms. ;)

Scott Bonnell said...

Wow good deep thoughts and great quotes on leadership.. steve farrar once said "Leaders lead." Simple but profound... i pray God continues to lead you guys.

Pam Hogeweide said...

i am not a leader, but i hang out with leaders and i have often observed that spiritual leaders spend too much time in meetings. like managers. what would happen if spiritual leaders spent less time in meetings and more time in friendship and play? ohmygod, life in the church as we know it might grind to a crushing halt.

Pam Hogeweide said...

and perhaps that, as my friend martha stewart would say, is a good thing.

Brett said...

On Valentine's Day do you wear red toenail polish?

grace said...

Thanks Scott! It's nice to meet you. A similar quote I've heard is, "if no one is following, you aren't a leader."

Managers aren't the only leaders. You may be more of a leader than you think since you are pursuing a path of service.

Only my husband knows, and he's not telling.

KSG said...

Hey Grace,

I find it interesting how you've kind of come full circle (3/4 circle perhaps since full circle would mean ending up in the same place as before your crisis) in your thinking on leadership. I’ve done much of the same and I’m watching and waiting for family members to continue their circle tour (their experience is similar to your own).

I like the ideas of leadership as hub, empowerment, & catalyst.

The answer to bad leadership is not no leadership, it is good leadership.

This really ties in to a book I want to read soon (soon as I'm done the three books I have on the go but have yet to finish!) The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch.

Trailady said...

Great thoughts, Grace! Thanks for sharing. I feel some of your struggle.

I was a leader in highschool and college. I always had leadership roles in my church. However, when my theology began to vary a bit from what the main SDA church ascribed to, then I began to be asked to do less & less. As a musician, it's hard to share your love for God if the church rejects you as a musician because you wear earrings or eat meat occasionally.

So, I'm with you in the identity crises. I'm not sure who I am or where I fit in the religion/leadership realm anymore.

Like you, I am content to be on the sideline for a while. It may be encouraging that every great leader in the Bible had to have a "Time Out" to rest, contemplate and connect with God on a deeper lever. David was a shepherd & outlaw, Moses tended sheep in Midian, Joseph was a slave who served time in prison.

Perhaps this is our wilderness??

grace said...

Absolutely, wilderness is certainly a part of transition. I am reading a book called Permission Granted that describes the process so well. I'm anxious to start posting about it. Thankfully, although we are still in transition, we've found a place of rest and trust, knowing that God continues to lead us forward into whatever His plans are for us.

grace said...

I agree that the answer is good leadership, yet even in saying that I am concerned that the idea of good leadership becomes framed in the old paradigms of position.

I wonder if as long as we use the word leader we will suffer from the ambition of those who want to be out front.

I will be getting into Forgotten Way soon also. I look forward to hearing your what you think of it.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts along the way in this conversation.