Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Leading On Eggshells


A friend of mine sent me an email that included this:

"I thought about you yesterday as I was reading a collection of essays on leadership published by Harvard Business School. One writer emphasizes the differences between a manager and a leader. A manager, he said, copes with complexity through the accomplishment of daily, necessary tasks – in short, maintaining things as they are. A leader, on the other hand, is concerned with change – articulating its vision and ensuring its accomplishment, not by imposing it from above but by developing it from among the existing staff, getting people excited about the future. Organizations need both managers and leaders; it seems to me that what you are doing in small town big church is providing leadership – exactly what they need."

Reassuring words from my gifted and knowledgeable friend as I struggle to claim my voice in this new place.

In that same Alban Institute conference (previous post) the facilitator Susan Beaumont told us that the Senior Pastor, the Rector, the primary leader of a parish is the ONLY person who can be responsible for these 7 things:

1. Mission/Vision/Outcomes: who we are, who we serve, and how we do this. (My words, not hers)

2. Structure and Hierarchy: How the structure we function in enables us to live into our Mission and ministry. What do we believe about power and authority and leadership relationships? What does our structure communicate about what we believe?

3. Leadership Style: What does the leader believe about motivation, ability, skill, and worth of the people who serve on the leadership team? How are these reflected back in the leadership style?

4. Role Management: How do we manage our roles and the expectations that others have of our roles? How do we balance spiritual and organizational leadership?

5. Performance Management: What are the essential functions, core competencies and targeted outcomes expected from each member on the team? How will team members be encouraged and held accountable for their portion of the work?

6. Strategic Decision Making: How will we make decisions together? What will we choose to pay attention to? How will we recognize and seize strategic opportunity? What value do we place on planning? Does our decision making process leave room for discernment of the Spirit?

7. Team Culture: What kind of organizational culture will we embrace? What values do we espouse? What behavioral norms will we covenant together?

The course was designed to help those attending examine and strengthen the messages we create in these seven dimensions of team life. We worked on skill building, individual reflection, and small group support.

In relationship to the materials presented in that course, and incorporating the email from my friend, I am left pondering this. I am clearly the leader in my parish leadership team. I think the vestry and staff are functioning as managers. But in that process we are not working as a team.

I think the staff and vestry view me, rightly so, as younger than they. But as a result they also think (unconsciously) that they are supposed to "correct" me when I veer off the well worn path of having always done it this way. The do not (yet) trust me. I do not (yet) have the authority that comes with my position. And more importantly I don't trust them. I don't know who I can trust.

And, so I am leading with every thing I know and understand, all the while walking on egg shells hoping that they don't crumble beneath me.

The one thing I do trust is that after this team has worked with me for a year, and gone through an entire liturgical year, they will trust me more. And that is what enables me to be a non-anxious presence in very anxious times.


Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure that I buy Beaumont's words... prima facie. I think that as pastors... senior or otherwise... we are called to seek and then lead/point to God's will for us as God's people.

Everything that I say and do... I try to say and do with God at the center. To do her 7 items... without God/cross/resurrection at the center... leads us into a business model... which may be helpful... but not equal to being the church.

The eggshells... may crack and crumble... and if God's at the center of that... then it's a good thing because God's light can then shine into darkened places... usually places that require change for faithful growth in vitality.

As to the team... is there someway... after the first of the year (new vestry team then?) that you can bring in a consultant to do the Myers Briggs and talk about how each person deals with things in a particular way... and how those ways aren't wrong... but just the way we deal with things. Then... as the leader... who's just taken all of that in... talk about how this tool... can help y'all move to a new level of trust and relationship... in Christ?

Praying for you... as you journey on eggshells.

Presbyterian Gal said...

I have a left field suggestion for you. Rent the last season of Dr. Who where David Tennant is the doctor.

I have found something profoundly inspiring in his performance. And that is: Every time he finds himself in an absolutely untenable position where he and his companion as well as the planet du jour (usually earth) or others in the episode, he embraces the situation with great fun, even glee at times. His attitude is one of excited anticipation to see what exactly the challenge is and how he can make it work to everyone's (even the so called bad guys) benefit.

I am so inspired by this especially lately, having to guide our family financial ship.

That and Jesus.

Blessings to you. I know you'll do great. I'll still pray anyway.

mompriest said...

bw - beacuse this was an interfaith group: rabbi's, numerous Christian denominations, Unitarian - Susan does tend to diminish the Christ, Cross, God component...but certainly that is a piece of it for each of us to extrapolate and blend into the idea - also it was a workshop for large churches that tend to be more "corporate" in their functioning...that said, yes. I agree with you....and appreciate your thoughts.

PG - thanks too! Never watched that show but will try too...

Sherry said...

I can but imagine the difficulties you face. Certainly any new pastor coming into a congregation faces this problem. They have done things the same way forever and the new pastor is trained to develop the best potential of that parish. It must be most difficult to carefully move people to think of new ways of doing things and contemplating new ministries and missions. I know you are up to it! Your calm intelligence will no doubt win them over. It just takes time, as you seem quite aware of. I think a year is a good time frame in which to work. Best of luck, and trust your instincts. :)

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I am holding you in my thoughts and hoping that they do learn to trust you more and more.

Jiff said...

I think it's right to assume that a year togheter with your team helps a lot.
I followed a 30 year pastor. The church had a two year interim, and while I was embraced upon arrival, it was as though the interim was something to be endured and then they could resume doing things the way they liked. Many of their likes were good to keep. A full year helped us discover what we could change and improve, with trust and the sense that I'd be staying to live into newness with them. It's been 5 1/2 years. Some things still stick and others flow.
It's all good, because we geniunely love one another.

Tripp Hudgins said...

I should be finishing my's that for leadership?

This is a great post. Thank you for sharing it. I struggle on all these points. I am younger by far than most of my leadership and it's a struggle. We muddle through, but the frustrations do mount from time to time.

I have inherited a much smaller congregation than many of them remember...or would wish for. It's been 2+ years and some days I still reel from it all. It's better than it was, but learning to trust is a constant effort on all sides.

I would love to hear more about how the clerhyperson comes to trust the congregation as well.

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