Management and Leadership

Tip of the Hat to Next Reformation for a nice post on Management and Leadership (and for working in one of my favorite theorists on leadership, Ron Heifetz whose work Leadership without Easy Answers I think is excellent).

A quote from the post:

“I have never been fond of distinguishing between management and leadership: they overlap and you need both qualities. But here is a distinction worth making: leadership is needed for problems that do no have easy answers.”

He notes that Heifetz accuses us of looking for the wrong kind of leadership when the going gets tough: “in a crisis, we call for someone with answers, decision, strength, and a map of the future — in short, someone who can make hard problems simple.. Instead of looking for saviours, we should be calling for leadership that will challenge us to face problems for which there are no simple, painless solutions — problems that require us to learn new ways ” (21)

An alternative image of leadership is one of “mobilizing people to tackle tough problems.” Fullan writes, “Leadership, then, is not mobilizing others to solve problems we already know how to solve, but to help them confront problems that have never yet been successfully addressed.”

I think this can be applied not only to our congregations, but to our workplaces, and our government, right up to presidential politics. As Heifetz would argue, we tend in our culture to confuse power and authority with leadership, with being in control to leading, when in fact leading and leadership is performing what Heifetz calls adaptive work – or “confront)ing) problems that have never yet been successfully addressed.” Not doing technical work or doing what we have already done, but just doing it better, faster, stronger. Adaptive work, leadership, is the creative response to finding ways to find new solutions to things that have not yet been addressed or been addressed successfully.

This may or may not be accomplished by those in authority. Authority is power granted to perform a service. Acting with the power of an authority but performing no service is authoritarianism.

Why are people “up in arms” over $4 a gallon gasoline? Health care? Housing? Because at some basic level I believe people expect governments to provide services and are willing to grant them power to do so. When they perceive them as not providing those services, they start to see them as authoritarian and seek change.

More quotes pulled from Next Reformation:

* the new work on knowledge creation and sharing is critical to us in the change process. Turning information into knowledge is a social process that requires good relationships. But people do not share knowledge unless they have a moral commitment to do so.
* complexity supports chaos, and the edge of chaos generates creative energy. But too much chaos generates anarchy. Effective leaders tolerate ambiguity, but also seek coherence — they are meaning makers and they intuitively grasp the whole

Managing the complexity and the balance of energy so that the forming edge is creative and not chaos is never easy, but probably easier in smaller social groups such as villages, companies and congregations than it is on the scale of nations. Those who are effective at it are meaning makers and that is the business of religion and ministry and ministry is not just for ministers, in UU land we are called to be a prophethood of all believers.

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