Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Finding our leadership gloves

Ever witnessed the detailed care, training and equipment that go into maintaining a nuclear power reactor?  Or even just fixing a broken power line? One can’t just pick it up and have a go, why?  Because when power is ignored… people get hurt.   

Doing a Ph.D. in leadership development opened my eyes to the vast amount of money, time and energy that go into creating exciting and ‘efficient’ ways of developing leaders.   We have learnt how to manage our time, energy and passion, how to think systematically, organically and strategically and we've been told how to cast vision, engineer culture and create personal presence.   But where do leaders learn how to handle power? How are we providing ‘rubber gloves’ for our leaders to handle power?

As Christians we are not even meant to talk about power let alone seek it out.  But here is a great paradox, power is the oxygen of leadership!   We can rename power as: influence, emotional intelligence, organisational astuteness or relational skills, whatever makes us feel more comfortable as Christian leaders.  But the moment we sidestep the ‘power paradox’ and ignore that we have to handle some form of power … people get hurt.  

The corrupting power, of power, is that you never think it will corrupt you! 

Yet handling power is not something that can be developed in the moment of power, because then it is too late.  It is not something you can learn by all by yourself, because you can’t empower yourself against power.   Nor is it something you can put in the ‘interesting thought box’ because as Churchill reminded us “those who ride on the backs of tigers soon end up inside.”

The presence of this danger has been demonstrated by a recent church ‘scandal’ in North America.  Unfortunately, scandals are as old as history but what seems unique in this situation is it involved no sex, money or heresy but rather the misuse of power.  As a result ‘spiritual abuse’ has now become a hot topic but who is raising the question, how are we developing leaders to handle power?

How do you think we can best develop leaders’ rubber gloves?   I hope you will consider contributing your thoughts, skills and expertise at Modems upcoming conference where we will discuss these issues and more.  

Rob sharp 

Saturday, 4 October 2014

One-way and multi-way leadership conversations

There must have been church leaders who had a sneaking envy of Tesco – the efficiency, the decisiveness, the way people obeyed orders, the growth and the aura of success. Tesco is now unravelling and we are seeing some of the consequences of that one-way leadership. According to a recent article, right to the top, people had to give good news about their departments or risk at least being humiliated in public, or fired. The most senior management were insulated from any bad news about what was going on, and isolated from any different ideas or new conversation which could have helped them change direction and develop anything new for their company.

MODEM is a hub where different ideas about leadership, management and ministry can meet, a space where those ideas can be discussed and played with, and a conversation as we work together on how those ideas can be improved, and how they can be applied in our own situations. Many of us are suspicious of anyone who tells us how to lead or manage. That is a one-way leadership conversation, and they do not know our situation as well as we do. It is completely different if we have the opportunity to take others’ ideas, discuss them and think them through for ourselves.

Our annual conference is a hub for such conversations. It gives us the chance to listen to distinguished speakers who have thought long and hard about what they are saying, and to talk to them and each other as we work through their ideas. This year we are enhancing that conversation by starting it before the conference and continuing it afterwards, all through the wonders of blogging. Not only does this mean that we can get our ideas going earlier and keep them going afterwards, but it also means that many more of us in the MODEM community can think together.

Even if you are unlucky enough not to be able to get to the conference, please join the conversation through this blog and help us all to get working on a multi-way conversation.

David Sims
Chair, MODEM