Leadership on the Line – Part III

In the second section of the book entitled, The Response, the authors lay out how to deal with the issues that arise during a person’s leadership. The offer some very good advice and strategies to deal with conflict.

They use the analogy of a dance floor in the first part of this section. As an event/situation/meeting is happening, a leader needs to learn to take his/her place on the dance floor but then also, and this is the key, remove themselves and head up the balcony. While on the balcony the leader can see what is happening, who is dancing and with whom, who is not on the dance floor, etc. The key to leadership is to be able to make those observations in the moment, from the balcony, and then get back on the dance floor and make changes, go back to the balcony and observe and then get on the dance floor again. A true leader needs to be in two places at once, observing his/her surroundings while also making changes necessary.

This is not easy and takes a lot of practice and patience. Yet they are right that a leader needs to hone this skill. Without it a leader will only be on the dance floor and always wondering why things are happening the way they are. A leader needs the bird’s eye view to get true perspective of what is happening.

The second part of this second section talks about thinking politically. Clergy like to live in denial that politics is not part of church work, but it is a reality, whether we like it or not. We have to learn to be good politicians (don’t look to our government for examples of this though). If we cannot be good at it we need to at least recognize it existence. In this section the authors give five pieces of advice, find partners, keep the opposition close, accept responsibility for your piece of the mess, acknowledge their loss, and accept causalities.

Here is an exert which was very enlightening from the keep the opposition close section:

People who oppose what you are trying to accomplish are usually those with the most to lose by your success. In contrast, your allies have the least to lose. For opponents to turn around will cost them dearly in terms of disloyalty to their own roots and constituency; for you allies to come along may cost nothing. For that reason, your opponents deserve more of your attention, as a mater of compassion, as well as tactic of strategy and survival.

This means for clergy we need to pay close attention and give attention to ‘the oldest rat in the barn.’ We have to talk, stroke, and understand that the person we dread dealing with is the one we are called to have the most compassion on. We don’t have to agree but we need to realize that the individual will have to give up the most. The hope is that showing compassion will allow the clergyperson to share the vision, dream, motivation, and understanding of why that change has to occur. Bring the ‘oldest rat in the barn’ around will also bring around many other people who were on the fence. Maybe that person will turn from an opposition to a partner, maybe.

The one that many of us clergy have the hardest time with is the last part, accept causalities. As a congregation heads in a new direction there will be people who won’t like the change. Jesus had twelve disciples and one failed him, why do we think we can get a 100% approval rating all the time. If a clergyperson has tried everything to talk to, have conversation with, pray for, and still this person can’t jump on board, then the best thing is to go your separate ways. The rich young ruler saw what Jesus requested of him, turned a left. Jesus’ ministry continued to go on. It didn’t come to a screeching halt because one person decided it wasn’t for them. As clergy, we should learn something from Jesus in that situation.

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