Academic

Spiritual Leadership and the Philippian Hymn – Part 3, The Vision and Mission of the Church17 Mar

The Vision and Mission of the Church and its Leaders
In business leadership it is accepted and taught that vision and mission come first and that strategy follows and is focussed on achieving the vision and mission of the business. We, the church, seem to be good at writing vision and mission statements that reflect scripture, but we are not so good at integrating these divine wisdoms into the leadership behaviour of the church or into the models that we use to teach emerging Christian leaders. Our ‘strategy’ – the way the church operates – should reflect its divine mission – that is to spread the gospel of Christ and to grow the body of Christ.

The vision and mission of a business is centred on generating profits. Although many businesses today have altruistic motives and include social responsibility elements in their vision and mission statements, ultimately it is money that matters. The body of the church however has a vision and mission that is about salvation. It is about bringing people closer to Christ, building up the body of the church by spreading the good news and bringing about a transformation in people that reflects the way of Christ. This, Strawbridge argues, must be the starting point of ecclesial leadership. Beeley and Britton (2009) argue that we are currently experiencing a strong call to recover a sense of the basis of christian leadership in order to allow the church to fulfil its apostolic mission. Indeed there has been much in what I have read lately that suggests that the church has largely lost sight of this primary mission – to be the body of Christ. A clergy leadership development program would need to reorientate its students towards their true mission in serving Christ.

Full referencing details are available on request.

Academic

Being a woman in the service of Christ – a personal reflection17 Mar

This is my story, but perhaps many of my Sisters in Christ can relate…..?

After some particularly unpleasant gender-related encounters within the church space, over the past 4 years I found myself reflecting on this issue. I always feel that I lose so much of who I am in the presence of gender prejudice. One is always minimised and not in a good way, within these encounters.

So I was asking myself the other evening – Where is my sense of self? …..my internal vision of me? Where there once was peace, this has been replaced by affrontery, a constant battle to defend who I am as woman, as a person of value, as some-one in the world who wants to contribute her gifts, her life and to embrace others in the love of Christ.

What is the way forward – to stop fighting and to do these things? After some reflection I believe that there is a letting go that needs to happen – there is a re-envisioning of who the enemy is, that needs to happen. The enemy is not every male entity, more highly defended through self-doubt and fears of insufficiency than I am. So who is the enemy? I think the enemy is my own inability to let go of me, and to reach into the deep existential paradox that my life is, at the present moment. To turn it on its head and embrace the fullness of love that God has for me however and whenever I am. Until then I don’t think I can give the world anything, no matter how gifted and talented I may think I am.

I need to forgive those who have hurt, for they are no less conflicted than I am. I need to allow them to walk their own journey towards enlightenment, because theirs is not mine and if I try to make it mine, I am nothing but an intruder who by her trespass will only cause destruction instead of standing back and allowing God to do His work. By being an intruder in another’s life, I am deserting my own, and I will never walk within the richness of God’s glory in a way that was meant for me and me alone.

My new favourite spiritual author, Sr Joan Chittister, brings a flash of enlightenment – she asks :

“In the last three things that bothered me this week, whom did I blame and was it really worth the emotional energy that I gave to it? It is time to realize that it is not what happens to me in life that counts, it is what I do with what happens to me that is the measure of my happiness.”

Food for thought?

Academic,Leadership Development,Spiritual

Spiritual Leadership and the Philippian Hymn – Part 2, Personal Transformation17 Mar

Transformation

If we say that ecclesial leadership is an art, as Friedman tells us, and if we accept there is some form of kenotic element involved – that is we must empty ourselves of ourselves and become as much like God as we can, then implied in this are significant character changes. These changes will move us from being egocentric to being humble, from being self-centered to being centered around Christ and others, and to use whatever power and privilege we have to the benefit of the kingdom of God. There is also the issue of emotional maturity that is a thread that must be integrated into the transformation process. Spiritual leaders cannot be dragged down into the emotionality of the people they lead. They must be able to stand above it if they are to be able to resolve it, without being muddied or infected by the darkness of it.

As we have heard from Friedmann, leadership is not about technique. He argues that the yard-long shelves of unopened or half-read books on leadership are eloquent testimony to that. There are certainly skills that can be learned. But ecclesial leaders need much more than skills, they are called to be shining examples of Christ, to live by His way, and to devote themselves to serving the needs of others. In other words, any leadership development program for clerical leaders, needs to support this kind of spiritual growth and transformation.
As I reflect on this kenotic transformation, this transcendence of self and ego, and on my search for a leadership model embedded in theology, the work of the German Transcendental Theologian Karl Rahner comes to mind. The notion of transcendence within the thinking of Rahner’s model has notable synergies with personal growth. Rather aptly, in Rahner’s theological and spiritual context, this growth would have a divine thread, a transcendence from our human limitedness, by being open to God and to the word and to the power of the sacred mystery. Fiorenza argues that we transcend ourselves and become ‘exemplary’ (Fiorenza, 30). As developing Christian leaders we should be convicted of the omnipotence of God, to transcend our human boundaries and to allow us to evolve as something infinitely ‘special’; something beyond what we could ever imagine. Our Christian journey in fact is a reflection on and a striving towards our ultimate selves as the Imago Dei.

Bernard Lonergan, (1904-1984), a Canadian Jesuit Priest also emphasizes the centrality of this kenotic self-transcendence in human development. He argues that self-transcendence is a process of cognitive, moral and affective development. He goes on further to say that spiritual conversion goes beyond moral and intellectual self-transcendence in that it requires a shift to ‘ultimate meaning and value’. It is a ‘total reorientation of one’s life’, where spiriitual and moral value is placed above personal satisfaction. For me this says that we lose our preoccupation with self, and the good of others becomes paramount. This IS the personal transformation that we must strive for in the development of our clerical leaders. It is reflected in the Philippian Hymn through the example of Jesus, whose kenotic journey of self-emptying and God filling, elevates him to the ‘highest place’ :

8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

The leadership journey, and particularly the spiritual leadership journey, requires such an understanding, such a commitment and such a transcendence and transformation in order to ‘perfect the art’ so to speak. I think therefore that some reflection on Rahner and Lonergan’s thinking is essential for the development of a ‘theology of leadership’.

Full referencing details are available on request

Academic,Leadership Development,Spiritual

Spiritual Leadership and the Philippian Hymn – Part 1, The use of power16 Mar

I am going to share here, in three parts, a paper I researched and presented to a Conference of Bishops in Durban in November last year. It is a paper that explores a model of leadership suitable for clergy. I refer to it also as Ecclesial Leadership.

In my search for a model of leadership for the Ecclesia (Church leaders) I have discovered that many theologians believe the Philippian Hymn to be a central source of guidance for church leadership. Here Paul is giving guidance to the elders in the church at Philippia on how they should relate with their congregation.

The Philippian Hymn – Philippians 2:5-11
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

The first of three elements which are central to the notion of an Ecclesial Leadership Model is the use of power.
Strawbridge rightly argues that a theological understanding of power is critical to a theology of leadership. An Ecclesial leader has no power. He or she must acknowledge that their power comes from God and can only be accessed through spiritual discipline – a consistent submission to God through things such as reflection, prayer, studying the word and all things we have come to acknowledge as part of a spiritual life. God works through a spiritual leader, the leader cannot act alone. A disciplined spiritual practice is the foundation that is needed in order for God to work through us. God needs a fertile soil, an open mind, a free flowing channel. Pope Gregory argues that this includes prayer, proclamation, admonition, scriptural knowledge and holiness of life based on the leader’s relationship with God (Strawbridge, p.72). So what I am saying is that for an ecclesial leader to use power appropriately, that is, for the good of others, they should be suffused in spiritual discipline so that the power of God can flow freely through them. This spiritual discipline must be firmly entrenched in all spiritual leaders during their training….it must become second nature.

You seldom see humility in business leadership, in fact the whole focus is on power structures and hierarchies. The latter are not appropriate in the church, it is not appropriate for a theology of Ecclesial Leadership. Sadly though, this abuse of power appears to exist and it emerges as a recurring problem in church society, here and across the world. It is clearly evident in the various research exercises undertaken on this topic. It would appear that the abuse of power in clerical leadership, is regrettably not uncommon. If we are to develop church leaders who are different from business leaders, who reflect the idea of power inherent in the Philippian Hymn (used not to our own advantage) then we must help these leaders to embrace this humility, they must also embrace unity with their people, servanthood and ethical leadership

Edwin Friedman’s words find great resonance with my own thoughts when he said that “well-differentiated” leadership is an art, not a science. By this I understand that he means that it is not something we teach in the same way we teach some-one how to bake a cake – by a system of actions. It is something that evolves over time – it is crafted and perfected; mediated through experience and the application of analysis, judgement and readjustment of thoughts and actions. Let me say something about Friedman’s notion of being well-ifferentiated. It is the art of being ‘different’, perhaps one can say ‘set aside’ while remaining in relationship with others in ways that are healthy and life-giving for the community as a whole. So ecclesial leaders should be different – and I believe this difference is reflected in their calling, in their humility and in the maturity of their spirituality. Although they are set aside by God through their calling – they are still in a relationship of love with all that surrounds them, and they still put the needs of others above their own. This brings to mind the idea of perichoresis -the Eastern Orthodox church’s concept for the essence that binds the Trinity into one. A relationship of unity and Godly love. Precisely the type of relationship clerical leaders should aspire to.

Full referencing details are available on request.

Academic

Discerning God’s Will………30 Apr

I want to today this morning about how we discern God’s will. I will admit upfront I am not entirely objective on this topic because a ‘word from God’ has hurt my family. But this is not the first time that I had been very uncomfortable with the way in which we discern God’s will in our lives. It really is and should be, a complex process. I have a problem, probably because of my psychology background, when people pray and then tell other people what they think God wants them to do with their lives…..just like that…no careful thought, no objective (if that’s possible) discernment, very little thought given to the consequences of those decisions, how they will affect their future, how they will hurt others. It seems as if the will of God is easy to discern in these situations where people are given ‘words’ or ‘messages’. But God’s will is never easy to discern. It is never discerned in a moment, or even in a few days or weeks…..it takes a long time during which time we need to listen from the depth of our being. We need to talk to our family, our friends, our spiritual colleagues and we need to listen to what they say, what they are thinking, what advice, options and ideas comes through them to our ears.

Ruth Haley Barton (‘Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership’) describes the discernment process as follows :

“…… the discernment process involves a major commitment to listening with love and attention to our experiences, to the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit deep within ourselves and others, to Scripture and Christian tradition, to pertinent facts and information, to those who will be affected most deeply by our decisions, to that place in us where God’s Spirit witnesses with our spirit about those things that are true. We need to pay particular attention to distress, confusion and desolation. Even the more difficult emotions need to be honoured.”

I like this quotation because it stresses the complexity of discernment and that we need to ‘hear’ many different sources, and most importantly, how we need to listen, to listen deeply. What strikes me is how small the part played by words from others is and how many other things we are required to do to ‘hear’ God’s will for us. We need to focus on Him, and listen to what is happening deep within ourselves, and how we need to be accountable to others for the choices we make.

I believe we find our purpose in life where our gifts and the needs God has created within us, and around us, intersect. How many of us truly know what our gifts are and how to ‘connect’ them with our needs and the needs of those God sends to us? I think that discerning God’s will in our lives is intimately connected with the gifts he has blessed us with. I think that when we intervene in other peoples’ lives in a way that makes them question their purpose I think we need to proceed with profound caution. I think that often the words ‘I have a word from God for you’ should be replaced by the less overwhelming words of ‘I have a sense that this is something you might think about’ or something along those lines, a little more understated. This gives the person some space to discern for themselves if this is something God is trying to tell them about, or not. Telling some-one that they have a word from God, almost demands acceptance, it blocks personal discernment……we are taught that God demands obedience and yet we can never really be completely sure where our sense of a message from him really comes from…can we?

I think that if we have the gift of prophecy then we should be accountable for how we influence others through it. We should share it gently and we should support the people we have ‘words’ for through a deep process of discernment. In short we should ensure that we ‘love one another’ first and beware of how we could hurt.

Academic

Leadership Development in the corporate world02 Aug

An article written by Keith Coats of Tomorrow Today, prompted me to write this blog. Keith is brilliant in the field of leadership development. He is an insightful, well informed and creative developer of leadership development programs. He was expressing his frustrations at being limited in the application of his development process, by fearful clients who do not want to upset their principals or risk negative feedback from the trainees. I have stopped teaching leadership in organizations because of my frustrations at the interference of the client. How can we stretch minds and take people to a new level when the traditional, myopic and limited views of the clients are imposed on us. We go to a lot of effort to design a program with a specific desired outcome and then we are hijacked by the client. Then we are the scapegoats when the process doesn’t achieve its objectives. What is the point….why do they employ us in the first place if they have no faith in our knowledge as experts in our field.It is we, as consultants and researchers, who know what needs to be taught, because we have committed many hours of research and study to understand leadership challenges and how we can help our emerging leaders to grapple with them. Clients limit our ability to transform these leaders, because of their fear of change, their fear of being on the cutting edge, or perhaps more truthfully, their fear that they will not get return business or good performance reviews if the students don’t give good feedback. And students often don’t give good reviews when they are tasked with having to stretch, change and think. They like the training context where we fill their heads with facts and they don’t need to do anything but listen, and play on their smart phones whilst doing so. I prefer to write now……hopefully then some-one will listen and if I change just one client perspective with my writing, then I have achieved more than I could in a restrictive corporate development setting. If I can write to inform, expand mindsets, and to expose corporate clients involved in leadership development to the fact that there are new ways of thinking and that these new ways are the only ones that get results in this complex postmodern environment. Until we can achieve this, we will continue to churn out unimaginative, uncritical, non-thinking, ineffective ‘managers’ who operate under the guise of leaders. I will just keep writing in faith.

Academic

Leadership Challenges in the 21st Century20 Jun

There was some social media interaction in the last few weeks in response to a question which asked people to nominate one word that they thought would best describe leadership. A question, I think, is impossible to answer in the required manner, i.e. with one word. I did the best I could…. I said ‘ego’ (too much of it)!. I really wanted to say that all the good words that were used like ‘integrity’, trust’, ‘relationship’ or words to that effect were really relevant, but we need something new to suit the postmodern context of complexity and ambiguity that 21st Century leaders face. I was reading ‘Unisawise’ a Unisa publication on leadership where a number of local leaders were asked to talk on what leadership is or should be in South Africa or Africa today. It was interesting to see the mix ….with Alan Knott-Craig ex CEO of Vodacom calling for ‘ambitious, but not cruelly ambitious’ leaders and Archibishop Njongonkulu Ndungane calling for servant leadership, something of a diametrically opposed view. I tend to go with the latter but with a focus on community leadership involving egalitarian partnerships and endless dialogue between stakeholders and disciplines and whoever has a stake in resolving complex world problems today. I liked what Godwell Nhamo had to say – that “there is a need for co-leadership, leadership that is based on sharing and partnership, to address challenges …..”. His topic was solving problems relating to climate change and he said that “climate change cannot be addressed without realising that there are equal leaders across the globe”. It is this notion of equality that is missing in our leaders today, and the lack of it leaves leadership as an empty entity that revolves around building individual egos. Thabo Mbeki’s leadership initiative TMALI, mentioned in the same publication, falls short of the point once again in offering a series of short learning programs to develop African leaders……another skills based approach which has a dismal history of failure, simply because leadership is not about acquiring a set of skills or tools. Leadership is a journey into a personal transformation that results in a maturity and confidence that allows one to listen rather than to issue instructions, to empower others rather than to build empires and to have the interests of others truly at heart. The type of leadership that makes one better than others, that is egotistical in the extreme, that exists to amass individual power, can only ever be destructive to others and the needs of those served are never taken into account. In fact this, very common, type of leadership is so far from the ideal that perhaps we should not even be referring to it as leadership…. perhaps ‘tyrants’ or ‘dictators’ is more appropriate. It sounds extreme but sadly I encounter this model of leadership way too often. I would really like to see leadership curriculum having dialogue entrenched into the very fabric of the learning, where emerging leaders talk, listen, reflect, explore; where bright minds blend and produce rich new tapestries of knowledge.

Academic

Innovations in teaching leadership10 Jun

I have an idea for an innovation in teaching leadership.   My recent doctoral research found support for the inclusion of deep dialogue sessions for students, particularly incorporating the notion of reflection.   A number of lecturers interviewed in my sample said that this notion of reflection on learning material was almost completely absent from the emerging leaders learning experience.   This, they said, also resulted in a lack of critical thinking being evident in students and pointed to the possibility that students may be unable to think critically, perhaps because they are offered no opportunity in the learning journey to develop or practice these skills.   My research found support for interdisciplinary groups of students, analyzing complex, postmodern problems through the application of deep dialogue skills.   My concern is that nowhere, in any of the schools that I visited, or in my experience as a lecturer in business schools and as a leadership development consultant, have I ever come across a component of building competence in deep dialogue embedded into leadership curriculum’s.

I am hoping to use this posting to share an idea that I have had and that I would like to implement.   The idea revolves around the application of the teaching of dialogue, in an online context, using the model of generative dialogue of Otto Scharmer . If you would like to see the model please click here.   Otto Scharmer is well known for his U-shaped leadership theory that the dialogue model is based on and he is a visionary thinker in terms of leadership development in the postmodern context.   I would apply the model in the following way :

 

1.  Find a challenging postmodern problem for the students and present it on an online forum as a case study.

2.  I would post certain questions to the students based on the case study

Ok, so far nothing new.....

What would be novel in this methodology would be the way the assessment would take place.   Students would have to document their journey through the four quadrants of Scharmer's Model, with particular emphasis on the Reflective and Generative Quadrants.   They would need to provide an audit trail of the discussion, debate and thinking of each student which would then be critiqued by the lecturer and feedback given.   The lecturer, in providing feedback to the student, would enhance the dialogue by pointing out where the students could have done more in terms of reflection and generative dialogue.   For example, 'your criticism of the bank's response to the liquidation of the organization lacked depth/insight; your response tended to be myopic and did not reflect on all views and perspectives'.  The students should then be required to return to the group and do better next time.   This type of feedback/response process could and should continue throughout the study period, preferably a year, and the final assessment given only at the end of the experience.    I am assuming by requiring the student to constantly 'practice' Scharmer's model, they will develop the ability to resolve complex problems through dialogue.  The online context provides a constant audit trail which reflects the learning experience.   This would be valuable information to a lecturer for not only tracking the progress of learning,  but also as a rich source of feedback to students.    Students should also be required to reflect on the audit trail and identify areas where they could try something different next time around.

As leaders or students or people interested in leadership development, I would value your thoughts on this idea. If you have any ideas on how or where I could implement a pilot study that would also be a great value to me.

 

 

Academic

MBA a license for effective leadership?27 May

Destiny magazine, Issue 11 (March-April) raises some criticisms about the effectiveness of MBA’s referring to them as ‘Mediocre but Arrogant’ ; ‘Mighty Big Attitude’; and relating to the financial crisis in the last few years, as ‘Masters of the Business Apocalypse’.    Harsh words but not without truth.

My recent doctoral thesis was a critique on business leadership development methodologies in MBA classrooms in 3 South African and 3 international business schools.   This revealed the continued popularity of old, ineffective styles of teaching prevailing in the classes observed.   The methodology which was mostly unintegrated, disciplinary based teaching that reflected the hierarchical nature of the academic institutions visited.   This is not the kind of world that our leaders of today are faced with.   They have to grapple with complexity, ambiguity, paradox and continuous change and uncertainty.    The question must also be asked, in what business does finance, human resources, marketing, leadership etc., operate in isolation.

Students are very seldom exposed to the inter-disciplinary nature of business and they are seldom exposed to the realities of business in the postmodern era.    The notion of complex dialogue as a process where all stakeholders are brought together to solve problems as a community was not encountered in any of the visited schools.   Yet this is the way leaders have to engage when addressing complex problems.   There is little precedent in the past on which to base decisions for today….the problems are all too novel for that.   There is also no place, in today’s world of business, for a leader that makes decisions independent of his management team and the community in which the business is based.   Yet schools do not teach this kind of integration, deep communication and consultation.   Hierarchy, ‘the teacher knows best’ and old notions of leadership which place the leader in a revered, elevated place of wisdom are either palpable or obliquely veiled in the culture of the school and in the manner in which hierarchy and competition is valued by lecturers and school leadership.    Humility does not enter the picture.   Yet it is this quality that opens the door to integration, to listening, to effective knowledge creation and to the resolution of complex problems.

Our business schools need firstly to consider giving a lot  more attention to leadership development in MBA programs.   They need to include skills training on leadership models that support effective leadership in the postmodern context.   Some of these would be the inclusion of deep dialogues models such as those of Scharmer and Gunnlaugson.    Business schools should think of transforming their culture into one which reflects postmodern notions of leadership such as the work of Greenleaf in Servant Leadership or Jim Collins Level 5 leadership.   Business schools tweak curriculum, add in overseas trips, new case studies and experiential exercises as improvements to their programs.   This is insufficient; what is needed is holistic cultural transformation of behaviour, people, curriculum, process and programs.

About

Dr. Elaine Saunders – Industrial Psychologist

Phd in Leadership Development
Author of Assessing Human Competence
Specialising in online competency-based assessment tools, leadership development and performance counselling
Based in Sandton, Johannesburg

My key areas of intervention revolve around helping individuals to achieve their potential in the work context. To this end, my consulting practice comprises of three key applications which are related. These are the application of competency-based assessment in recruitment and leadership development, counselling as it pertains to performance, wellness and the recovery from trauma, and leadership development coaching.

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