complexity, freedom, leadership and coffee

This morning we were talking over coffee about leadership and complexity – how the biggest challenge for the Uniting Church is to be able to hold multiple, seemingly dissonant realities, and to not feel the need to ‘solve’ them, and the implications for that on the style of leadership we have in the church.

Of course, living (and leading) with complexity is particularly suited to a particular personality type. The risk is that in the same way as intuitive thinkers (and leaders) were sidelined in modern culture, linear thinkers (and leaders) are sidelined in postmodernity (labels and generalisations are crap, i’m sure you’ll get the gist). Perhaps that’s just the way of it – our models of leadership have to reflect and be born from the prevailing motifs of culture?

The kind of charismatic, intuitive leadership (using the primary dictionary definition) which has shaped and formed both Ikon and Kubik is something my own denomination is very suspicious of. I wonder if the saving grace of leadership within Ikon and Kubik is that there is some kind of leadership collective, which holds the charismatic leadership in balance (it’s different to accountability – or maybe it’s more than accountability – it’s a mutuality, a holding in tension. There’s something about finding freedom because you are held within a group, not of being set free by a group).

The Uniting Church understands leadership very differently to this. Our prevailing model of leadership formation is for a ‘modern’, linear form of leadership. Our experimentation with leadership formation, for the last few years, has been to increase the capacity of leadership to be able to work within complexity – to create leadership that’s light on its feet, reflexive (very much based on Senge, Argyris & Schon, Beckett, etc.). I wonder how we extend that latter to include or reclaim (redeem?) charismatic leadership. Part of that conversation needs to involve a reinterpretation of the role of ministers as leaders… and an ‘imagining’ of how leaders – who aren’t the minister – can emerge within a congregation.

Nothing new in any of that… it’s just that I’ve begun writing up a report of the trip, and leadership is a recurring theme. (Is now the moment to confess that I use this blog as a personal archive, more than anything else! i am constantly surprised – and delighted – that anyone else finds it interesting!)

[On a personal note, this has been a hard week – jetlag sucks, and i came back to a few really difficult things, both work-wise and personally. I don’t say any of that for sympathy, but just to introduce the following… Yesterday I started to plan a communion service for the nosh. I’ve often said that the act of planning worship is my worship, and I was reminded yesterday how true that is. After 5 weeks of talking about worship (don’t get me wrong, i have loved that, and badly needed to do it), to begin planning worship felt like I was coming home, I’d found myself again. It started to reframe and transform my little corner of the world. Is that not exactly what worship should do?

And finally, this was the first morning that I got back to my normal cafe to pick up coffee on the way into work… they called me by name (even after 5 weeks away), they told me that it made their week that I was back, they remembered how i have my coffee… and just to prove that they hadn’t missed me purely for the income I bring them, they wouldn’t let me pay for it. I’ve watched them do that to others in the past, of course, but when they did it to me, it was like the most pure and lovely blessing. I love Melbourne.]


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