Wednesday, January 29, 2014

When it's not about you, but it involves you

Insightful and self-aware leaders get to the point of understanding that some things that go on in the system are not about them. In time, and with work, they may even be able to not take reactivity from others personally, even when they come in the form of a personal attack. The dilemma for the leader, however, is the reality that while it may not be "about me," the mere fact that the leader is in the position of leadership in the system means that at some level, and to some extent, the issue will involve him or her.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

10 leadership Commandments for Clergy

There is no end to spin offs and parodies on The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). I thought I'd add to the mix by offering 10 Leadership Commandments for Clergy from a systems theory point of view. Here is my playful list. What would be yours? 

  1. Thou shalt not make thyself dependent on the Church for your salvation, for she is not your God.
  2. Thou shalt cultivate your relationship with your family of origin, for it is your once and future hope.
  3. Thou shalt not sacrifice your family and its members for the sake of ministry, for they are your first ministry.
  4. Thou shalt not accommodate to weakness, neither in yourself or in others. For fear, timidity, insecurity, and neediness are a lack of faith.
  5. Thou shalt not create the congregation in your image, for that is willfulness and a form of idolatry.
  6. Thou shalt practice courage and persistence of vision in the face of opposition, for a system needs its leader.
  7. Thou shalt invest in other people's growth---your staff, your employees, your congregational members--for that is an aid to differentiation.
  8. Thou shalt master triangles, for they shall be with you till the end of time.
  9. Thou shalt practice responsible stewardship of your calling. Invest in your own growth and development: personal, spiritual, emotional, physical, mental, and professional, for a church can only be as healthy as its leader.
  10. Thou shalt embrace imagination and adventure, for they will get you farther along on the journey. 

Israel Galindo is Associate Dean, Lifelong Learning at the Columbia Theological Seminary. Formerly he was Dean at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. Galindo serves on the Advisory Committee of the Wabash Center for Teaching in Theology and Religion and is available as consultant through the Center in the areas of curriculum development and assessment, leadership, and teaching and learning in theological education. In the fall of 2014 the Center for Lifelong Learning will offer the Leadership in Ministry Workshops, a clergy leadership development program from a Bowen Systems Theory framework. Check the Center's listing for more details.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

10 Leadership Quotes from Edwin Friedman

Few have helped re-frame the understanding of leadership in organizations within this generation as has Edwin Friedman. Expanding Bowen Family Systems Theory from its clinical therapeutic context to the contexts of religious institutions and organizations, Friedman's writings have offered a new frame of reference for what it means to be a leader. A brilliant mind, sharp wit, and occasional curmudgeon, Friedman is often as insightful as he is subversive. Below are ten quotes on leadership from his writings worth pondering. 

1. “The colossal misunderstanding of our time is the assumption that insight will work with people who are unmotivated to change. Communication does not depend on syntax, or eloquence, or rhetoric, or articulation but on the emotional context in which the message is being heard. People can only hear you when they are moving toward you, and they are not likely to when your words are pursuing them. Even the choicest words lose their power when they are used to overpower. Attitudes are the real figures of speech.”

2. "Leadership can be thought of as a capacity to define oneself to others in a way that clarifies and expands a vision of the future."

3. "The colossal misunderstanding of our time is the assumption that insight will work with people who are unmotivated to change."

4. "In any type of institution whatsoever, when a self-directed, imaginative, energetic, or creative member is being consistently frustrated and sabotaged rather than encouraged and supported, what will turn out to be true one hundred percent of the time, regardless of whether the disrupters are supervisors, subordinates, or peers, is that the person at the very top of that institution is a peace-monger."

5. Leaders need "... to focus first on their own integrity and on the nature of their own presence rather than through techniques for manipulating or motivating others."

6. "Sabotage . . . comes with the territory of leading.... And a leader's capacity to recognize sabotage for what it is---that is, a systemic phenomenon connected to the shifting balances in the emotional processes of a relationship system and not to the institution's specific issues, makeup, or goals---is the key to the kingdom."

7. "...leadership is essentially an emotional process rather than a cognitive phenomenon..."

8. "...'no good deed goes unpunished'; chronic criticism is, if anything, often a sign that the leader is functioning better! Vision is not enough."

9. "Living with crisis is a major part of leaders' lives. The crises come in two major varieties: (1) those that are not of their making but are imposed on them from outside or within the system; and (2) those that are actually triggered by the leaders through doing precisely what they should be doing."

10. "..the risk-averse are rarely emboldened by data."

Sources: A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix (Seabury Books, 2007); Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue (The Guilford Press, 1985).

Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at the Columbia Theological Seminary. Formerly, he was Dean at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Ministry (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer and Don Reagan. Galindo also contributes to the Wabash Center's blog for theological school deans.