Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Leadership in Anxious Times

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Some thoughts on Leadership in Anxious Times:

Nothing sidelines an institution faster than contraction and flailing that is labeled as vision and the dawning of a new era.

Read more:

Spiritual Leadership

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

For some time now, people have been casting around for a means of defining spiritual leadership.

Some have approached the challenge by urging leaders to cultivate virtue, stressing the moral character of leaders. It is an approach that has resonance with broad religious traditions, stressing behavior found in the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount.

Some have gravitated to servant leadership, defining a leaders role in a fashion that resonates with large tracts of Scripture, including the ministry of Jesus, and addresses the excesses of a self-invested leader.

Others urge a broadly defined interest in the spiritual well being of their employees.

What none of these models do, however, is help leaders to understand or imagine the shape of the larger enterprise in which they are involved.

One way of thinking about the spiritual leader’s role is to envision it as the crafting and enhancement of creative space — creativity that mirrors the creative work of God.

The Book of Genesis emphasizes the unique role of God as creator. It also describes the image of God — which is shared with human kind — as centrally a creative impulse, not just in the act of procreation, but in exercising responsibility and authority over the created order.

Likewise, in our work worlds, it is possible to think of the leader’s role as inherently spiritual in the sense that it takes this delegated responsibility seriously. This means identifying the kinds of resources and boundaries are needed to create an environment for creativity; the conditions that maximize the opportunity for creativity; and the kind of leadership that enhances everyone’s sense of responsibility for the creative enterprise.

That is very different from the notion of leadership as the exercise of power. It is less reactive. It is not pegged to a leader’s need for control. It is not tied to a potentially unhealthy preoccupation with whether or not a leader is liked. But at the same time it is not cavalier about the ways in which a need for control can kill the desire to work creatively.

The leadership Jesus exercised may have been shaped by the highest of moral concerns. Jesus may have been the quintessential servant. And there is every reason to believe that he was extraordinarily attentive to the spiritual needs of those he met. But his life and work were shaped in decisive ways by his attention to the coming of the Kingdom and the creative space for the work of God that it represented.

We all exercise authority over some kind of creative space: in our homes, work places, and relationships. Where can you be used by God to encourage creativity?

Master of the Bureaucracy or Builder

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

In a telling piece in the Harvard Business Review not long ago, Umair Haque issued what he calls “The Builder’s Manifesto.” In it he argues that what bedevils twenty-first century institutions is the dominance of twentieth century leaders.

Put another way, we need builders, not masters of the bureaucracy.

Haque writes:

…the vast, Kafkaesque bureaucracies that managed 20th century prosperity, created, in turn, the need for “leaders”: people who could navigate the endlessly twisting politics at the heart of such organizations, and so ensure their survival. But leaders don’t create great organizations — the organization creates the leader. 20th century economics created a canonical model of organization — and “leadership” was built to fit it….What leaders “lead” are yesterday’s organizations. But yesterday’s organizations — from carmakers, to investment banks, to the healthcare system, to the energy industry, to the Senate itself — are broken. Today’s biggest human challenge isn’t leading broken organizations slightly better. It’s building better organizations in the first place. It isn’t about leadership: it’s about “buildership”, or what I often refer to as Constructivism. Leadership is the art of becoming, well, a leader. Constructivism, in contrast, is the art of becoming a builder — of new institutions. Like artistic Constructivism rejected “art for art’s sake,” so economic Constructivism rejects leadership for the organization’s sake — instead of for society’s. Builders forge better building blocks to construct economies, polities, and societies. They’re the true prime movers, the fundamental causes of prosperity. They build the institutions that create new kinds of leaders — as well as managers, workers, and customers.

Haque is right.

The reason, though, that our leaders gravitate to the mastery of bureaucracy is not simply a function of history or socialization. The causes are deeply spiritual.

Masters of the bureaucracy believe in the system. They rely upon it. They gain power by learning its subtleties. They hedge against their fears and a loss of power by manipulating it. And the mastery of bureaucracy is not a creature of just the right or the left, but of both. Its most vehement defenders are so afraid of the future that both the left and the right trade in fear and epithet in order to marshal their followers. That is why the dynamics surrounding the decision making process remain the same, even as the identity of our leaders change.

It requires faith in something larger (faith in God) to risk your sense of control and to venture into new places where the ground is uncharted. Leadership is finally grounded, not in mastery, but in humility — the knowledge that we are “of the earth,” the creatures of God — and our well-being does not lie finally in mastery, but in trusting the one who made us.

The rest of Haque’s manifesto can be found at:

Hard Times Leadership

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

New article in Alban Institute’s Congregations Magazine, entitled “Hard Times Leadership…