Saturday, December 11, 2010

the art and craft of missional leadership: masters year one

Further to my post on the art and craft of missional leadership, in which I suggest that leadership is a craft. By craft I mean that leadership is not a bunch of techniques. Rather it is a craft in that it is concerned about the cultures in which we flourish. Nor is it a program. Rather it is a craft in that it is a unique and individual blend of skill, commitment and judgment. Nor is it head knowledge. Rather it is a craft in the aligning of head and heart, intuition and intelligence, history and innovation.

So the application becomes: How do you develop leaders in their craft?

Which is what I’ve been working on through recent months – first a Masters in Missional Leadership.

And then more specifically, the shape of Year One

It’s for current ministers who want to grow in their leadership. Mention Masters ie post-graduate education and people tend to think of an individual pursuit in a library which involves lots of footnotes and even more words. Which seems opposite to this notion of the “craft of leadership”. Glancing back over the one page information blurb about Year One, using the lens of “craft” I note

1. It’s part-time, because leaders get better at their craft by practising their craft
2. The major thesis project expects participants to focus their craft in their own culture. It’s not a theoretical thesis, but a documenting over 4 years of an ongoing process of action/reflection (practising your craft). (This then raises a whole lot of theoretical and ethical questions, answered by the field of action research.
3. Program Seminars provides ways to embrace the strength and critique that comes from a community of crafters.
4. Leadership 360 creates a space space for people to gain a snapshot, shine on mirror on the practise of their craft and how they might improve.
5. Reading is assessed on integration, the implications for one’s own context.

Posted by steve at 12:12 PM

Thursday, June 17, 2010

leading from your strengths. gift or curse?

What if you are really good at something. You have a passion for it and over time you invest in it. You develop skills and you become good at it.

Really good.

But over time you begin to wonder if there are some potential downsides to your gift.

Some people tell you they could never do what you do. That your gift leaves them feeling somehow inadequate and so they close down.

Still others begin to place you on a pedestal.  In your presence they become less forthcoming with their opinions.

Still others ask what happens when you leave, with the assumption that somehow you are invaluable, that things should continue with, or without you.

Such reactions, observed as I watch people respond to creative people, leave me wondering. What do gifted people do with their strengths? Should Da Vinci have used his gifts less? Or differently? How much of how a creative person is perceived and processed is their responsibility? What is involved in the shift from creative individuals to creative communities?

Posted by steve at 03:55 PM

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

developing change leaders book review – Ch 5 Building a Change Leadership Culture

A book review of Paul Aitken and Malcolm Higgs, Developing Change Leaders: The principles and practices of change leadership development. Chapter one here. Chapter two is here. Chapter three is here. Chapter four is here.

“we need to depersonalise and decentre the leadership concept, so that we begin to perceive leadership as a co-operative or collective enterprise.” (93-93, quoting Bate, 1994, 242).

This is a crucial chapter, providing a framework by which to develop change leaders. This chapter explores the shift from “I” to “we”; from individual change managers to “leadership culture.” It calls for a “walk the talk” in which leaders make clear the links between what they do and their underlying values. “Whilst heroes can carry the day in times of crisis, building a sustainable culture of innovation, excellence and achievement requires a collective and distributed, as opposed to individualised and hierarchical, leadership mind-set and approach.” (103)

Research into “leadership culture” is rare, with a lack of clarity about how values of individual leaders translate into action. How to influence a culture? There are many options, including directing attention to priorities, reacting to crisis, creating formal statements, telling stories, symbolic acts, design of work facilities and processes, rewards and sanctions, methods of decision-making. But which to use and when? They suggest a mix of the following (112):

  • role model the future, every day and in every way
  • foster understanding of changed expectations and their purposes
  • find and develop the ‘new way’ values, capabilities and behaviours
  • reinforce future state with formal and informal culture signals

This includes some practical steps

  • appreciate that change is complex. It must be embedded in behaviours and run across the organisation, not top-down
  • make modelling a priority
  • build in feedback loops (this is critical including “experimental, case study and real life observation of leadership” (114)
  • build team by creating an open table in which to discuss the real values of the organisation
  • creating a culture development plan
  • identifying key behaviours that have the best chance of making a difference
  • seeking out and developing change leaders and followers who represent your future

The more I read this book, the more impressed I am. The mix of research, concise summaries, diagrams and practical examples is appealing. The use of a strong values basis makes it much more likely to transfer to religious contexts. I suspect it will provide a fascinating way to discuss leadership development ie training of Christian ministers.

Posted by steve at 11:55 AM

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

developing change leaders book review – Ch 4 A Values Dialogue for Change Leaders

A book review of Paul Aitken and Malcolm Higgs, Developing Change Leaders: The principles and practices of change leadership development. Chapter one here. Chapter two is here. Chapter three is here.

The chapter starts by marshalling a wide range of evidence for the importance of values in change leadership. “The management focus for the first part of the twenty-first century will be the management of meaning through the demonstration of values in management behaviour.” (62) The authors urge that selection of change agents include values, as well as experience and competencies.

They suggest a diversity of values are at work and offer some categories (77-81) by which a leader can assess their organisation and how their individual values might mesh with that of their organisation. (Anyone like to locate their church, and their leadership training, in relation to the grid?)

  • Clan. Family type organisation, (often seen in Japanese companies). Key word is collaboration. Values commitment, communication, development. Leader type = facilitator, mentor, team builder.
  • Hierarchy. Key word is control. Values coordinator, monitor, organizer. Leader type = efficiency, timeliness, consistency.
  • Market. Key word is compete. Values hard-driver, competitor, producer. Leader type = market-share, goal achievement, profitability.
  • Adhocracy. Key word is create. Values innovation, transformation, agility. Leader type = entreprenuer, innovator, visionary.

And the implications for change leaders? “leaders have to learn to communicate purpose and direction with a whole culture made up of different personal values, concentrating on shaping informal organizational life (emphasis mine). We might call this ‘strategy by the coffee machine’, consisting of dialogue about what we are told we should be doing, what are leaders are actually doing and how we feel about joining them to make change happen.” (82) “Effective change leaders must continually check what their heart, head and hands communicate.” (83)

Posted by steve at 05:18 PM

Sunday, May 23, 2010

where does the hope come from? words of mission in mission

Today is a transition day – flying from Maroochydore to Bathurst via Sydney; from Queensland Synod lecture to working for with New South Wales ELM centre (lay ministry training); from one-off talk to two days of rolling conversation around the theme of transformers.

Last night I talked with the Queensland Synod about a word of mission. (Update: summary and even audio are here).

It’s a (neglected?) part of Uniting church worship and I used it as a framework to explore my ministry experience with Opawa Baptist. What were the words of mission in our change process? What did we do in actual ministry practice as a result of those words of mission? What were the leadership understandings that helped our journey?

So I looked at

  • the Pentecost story and the word of mission in Acts 2:6 people hearing “in their own language and how that helped shape our multi-congregational model.
  • and the Parable of the sower (I used a children’s book, Bodge plants a seed, by friend Simon Smith as a encouragement to lead by nuturing green shoots
  • and the story of Mary and Elizabeth, as a word of mission to Elizabeth’s to speak words of courage and life to the new things of God in our midst and for the church to be open to the unexpected innovation from Mary’s

And I reflected on the leadership understandings

At times as I spoke I felt that my attempt to weave the word of mission and the ministry practice and the leadership lessons were too ambitious for an hour lecture on a Saturday evening after a long day. I wished I could have been clearer, but alas, it is too late once one is speaking! And my powerpoints were not good enough. However, there was good group interaction and some thoughtful questions and some fascinating after-ward conversations.

May God’s peace rest upon the Queensland synod.

Posted by steve at 11:35 AM

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Where does the hope come from? guest lecture at Queensland Synod

I’ve been asked to deliver something called the Norman and Mary Miller Lecture, to the Uniting Church Queensland Synod, on May 23. So I’ve been chewing away on what I might say and how. So much, so little time. Here is my current thinking.

TITLE: Where does the hope come from?

(The title is a deliberate play with my Principal Andrew Dutney’s book, titled Where did the joy come from? He’s from Queensland and in the book he explores the history of how the Uniting Church was formed. Which got me thinking about what it might mean to frame mission in terms of “where does the hope come from?).

BLURB: The task of the Norman and Mary Miller lecture is to apply the Church’s past witness to the social context of the modern day. In recognition of Rev Norman Millar’s work in Church Extension, Steve will reflect on his recent ministry experience, which involved leading an established church in a transition into a new mission future.  This ministry story will be set within a leadership framework, in particular the recent NCLS research into Australian leadership. It will also chart the mission lessons learnt and the implications for a theology of change. Steve will seek to weave personal experience, theological reflection and contemporary understandings of leadership and mission.

Posted by steve at 03:24 PM

Thursday, April 29, 2010

call stories

In the Scriptures there are some lovely call stories – Jesus calling disciples to follow. Each call unique, each person valued.

One of the things I’m loving about my new role here at Uniting College is a greater relationship with students. I was simply too busy at Laidlaw to have this privilege. So over the last few weeks it has been neat to ask students how God called them and listen to the work of God. God is still calling disciples to follow. Today, as well as back in the day!

What is striking is how unique each call is. No one size fits all. Just as in the Gospels, just as in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, different parts of the body have different shape.

This has some quite profound implications for theological formation.

First, training must start with listening to this call. There’s a profound humility in the fact that we are only responding to what God is breathing into life.

Second, training can no longer be one size fits all. It must be flexible enough to build on the unique sense of call and the unique shape of the body parts.

Third, training needs to be life-long. A call is not sustained by 3 years of study, but a life of ongoing formation, of new learning, of reflection and reading.

Fourth, God is not just calling people to be church ministers. Imagine a church in which all call stories were valued? In which a lawyer could be heard, and shaped, for lawyer ministry, just as a pioneer leader or a school chaplain.

Uniting College is working really hard to assemble a range of paths and patterns by which training can happen – training that starts with call, that values uniqueness, that looks lifelong, that is for the whole people of God.

It’s like lego, trying to put together a range of building blocks, so that we can serve God’s call stories.

Posted by steve at 09:31 PM

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

future Adelaide: a leadership dreaming process

One of the big tasks recently for me has been working toward the facilitating of a dreaming time in regard to mission and the future of the Uniting Church. It is part a 360 review – looking forward, backward and sideways, in relation to one of the mission experiment undertaken by the Uniting Church Synod of South Australia.

I was asked to conduct the looking forward part. So I invited about 15-20 people to join me around the big picture question of how can the missional temperature of the church in South Australia be raised. This type of thing requires energy, so food was provided, along with a range of inputs.

Another input was to try to get us to step forward. I reckon you can dream in 2 ways. One is start from now and think forward. Another is to jump forward and then start to think backward. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Given that in this context, we are deeply involved in the now, I decided we could try jumping forward.

So I asked my partner in contribute her research skills in preparing a scenario, looking at Adelaide and the Uniting church in 7 years time. She prepared a two page summary sheet (here), and also found this video.

So this was the start of our time together. Over food, in groups of 4, people discussed the future:

  • what strikes you?
  • what could contribute to a different imagination?
  • what might be missing or lacking from this scenario?

I’ll blog the rest of the process on Friday. First, a few days for you to use the resources for yourself. Let me know what you come up with!

Posted by steve at 08:14 AM

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

developing change leaders book review – Ch 3 What does it take to lead?

A book review of Paul Aitken and Malcolm Higgs, Developing Change Leaders: The principles and practices of change leadership development. Chapter one here. Chapter two is here.

Chapter three explores what is required to lead change effectively.

One helpful insight is the fact that they need to be able to operate both on the church and in the church, to both performing public skills (ensuring existing functions like preaching, pastoring and organisation) and backstaging (engaging support, working with resistance, influencing the future).

Key phrases keep appearing – “deal with ambiguity” (44), “deal with ambiguity, paradoxes and dilemnas” (45), “facilitative and engaging practices” (55)

The danger lights, especially in regard to some existing church change process, are there if we want to pay attention:

“Might not the continual search for the hero-leader be a critical factor in itself, diverting attention away from building institutions that by their very nature, continually adapt and reinvent themselves, with leadership coming from many people and many places and not just from the top. (45 citing Senge 2002, 64)

When, oh when will the church get over the search for the one dynamic, command/control type leader. When will it realise that their is no magic bullet, that leaders need “not follow a set or common approach to the overall change implementation process.” (49) Instead: “It is only by learning new things about ourselves, our relationships with others and discovering new ways of seeing reality that we can start to implement new [business] practices” (49)

Research of 84 leaders shows “that effective change leadership requires the leaders to have a high level of Emotional Intelligence.” (50)

Over 100 change leadership stories (when, on when might the church collect 100 change stories and use them as one of the data sets for reflecting on leadership. Could we be part of this with the Master of Ministry), showed three broad groups of behaviour, and a subset of behaviours:

  • Shaping behaviour – lead by example, expect hard work and enthusiasm, personally persuasive, expecting accountability.
  • Framing change – working with others to create vision and direction, explaining, educating and communicating on need for change, giving freedom for innovation within broad frameworks, changing how things get done as well as what gets done
  • Creating capacity – developing the skills of others in implementing change, offer feedback and coaching, working across the organisation at all levels, ensure adaptation of reproducible systems.

The change stories indicate that while directive type leaders focus on the first, shaping behavior, this actually negatively reduces the likelihood of change. Yep reduces! By contrast, it is the last two – framing change and creating capacity – that bring long term change.

This data was reduced to four core change leadership principles:

  • attractor – creates energy for change by connecting with others emotionally to embody the future, creates compelling story, weaves it to make sense of the life of the organisation, seeks good of the organisation above their own, able to adapt their leadership
  • edge and tension – amplifies disturbance by telling truth, is constant in tough times, challenges assumptions, stretches people, grows talented people
  • creates a container – holds the tension around the change by managing expectations, faces conflict, encourages, creates safe space to take risks, seeks alignment of resources
  • transforming space – creates movement by showing commitment, is vulnerable in a way that frees people to new possibilities, breaks existing patterns and challenges systems.

I’ve just spent 3 days and over 20 hours with 15 students. The topic was change and the leadership question sat with me all week. How to develop these people? How to best use the time? Was this the best use of my time? Should instead have been researching change stories? offering ongoing and longterm coaching with a few leaders?

The next chapters might answer these question, as they will turn to explore how to develop change leaders.

Posted by steve at 08:49 PM

Saturday, April 17, 2010

developing change leaders book review of chapter 2

A book review of Paul Aitken and Malcolm Higgs, Developing Change Leaders: The principles and practices of change leadership development. Chapter one here.

Chapter 2 The Challenge of change
This chapter explores the challenge of change. It provides a helpful diagram, linking change to what looks like a grief cycle – shock, anger, resistance, acceptance, hope. As with grief, people need time.

This includes noting the potential of resistance:

“Whilst resistance is generally perceived as being a negative within a change process, it is important to consider that resistance can be an indicator that change is having an impact. Furthermore, it surfaces the key issues and concerns which need to be addressed in order to ensure the effective implementation in the long run. Finally, resistance can play a positive role in surfacing challenge and insights which can prove beneficial in achieving the change goals or indeed discovering more appropriate ones.” (31)

Of course, to respond to resistance in this way, and be able to surface such positive possibilities for a change process requires a fairly unique skillset, far removed from “Well, this is what we have decided.”

It also depends on the approach to change, of which 5 are noted:

  • Directive: the leader’s right to impose change, which has the disadvantage of breeding strong resentment
  • Expert: generally applied to more technical problems, in which a specialist team leads
  • Negotiating: accepts that those involved in the change have the right to a say in how the changes are made. It takes longer, but equally is more likely to last longer
  • Educative: changing people’s hearts and minds. Again, takes longer but is more likely to last
  • Participative: while driven by leaders, all views are considered as change occurs. Again, takes longer but has far greater by in.

They note the shift from linear and programmatic notions, to emergent notions of change, characterised by the appreciation of the entire system, the acceptance that change can start anywhere (and the larger the system, the more likely that large changes begin at the edge), leaders as facilitators instead of drivers of change.

They then analyse over 100 change stories to conclude that change was successful when:

  • it was understood as complex
  • processes were used that genuinely involve people
  • change leaders have the skills to involve people.
Posted by steve at 10:08 AM

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

sydney bound for mission, discipling, leadership

The Taylor family head for Sydney on Friday. We have two weekends of “exploring Sydney time.” In between, I am working, teaching a 3 day intensive for ACOM (Australian College of Ministry).

Here is the blurb:

We are living in times of rapid change. Many existing patterns and paradigms face challenges. This course will explore the implications of ministry in a culture of change, with a specific focus on local church ministry. It provides practical case studies on mission, discipleship and leadership and subject these to theological reflection, in order to encourage creative and critical thinking on the nature of mission and ministry today. It will not be prescriptive but will encourage participants in their ability to dialogue between context and Christian texts, offering theological imagination in response to what God is doing in the lives of individuals and communities.

And here is the lecture outline.

I normally accept one “academic” intensive outside New Zealand a year, so when ACOM asked about 18 months ago, I said yes, little knowing that by the time to course rolled around, I would be living in Australia and trying to settle. So the timing for me is less than ideal. I need a break during study break, not more teaching!

Nevertheless, there 15-20 students, which is a great sized group to work with. And as per usual for the creative Steve, every course presents a chance to update my material in light of current reading and refecting. So this will be an essentially new course for me – one that is pulling from Missional Church Leadership, Sociology for Ministry and the Breathe intensive last year.

I’m looking forward to being around a Sydney-side table with some keen minds working on mission, discipling, leadership.

And for the rest of the Taylor family – it’s a holiday in Sydney. I will absorb their joy!

Posted by steve at 02:00 PM

Friday, April 09, 2010

developing change leaders: book review of chapter 1

While nearly 2000 books were recently written on leadership in an 18 month period, very few address the question:

How do we develop effective change leaders?

Such is the task attempted by business lecturers, Paul Aitken and Malcolm Higgs in their Developing Change Leaders: The principles and practices of change leadership development.

(Given that church’s and church leaders are meant to be into life change, I began to flick through the book. The more I browsed, the more intrigued I was, both by the clarity of the material, and by the extensive reading and practical case studies the author’s draw on. Thinking this might be a good resource, I opened my wallet.)

Aitken and Higgs use a key image, that of “sense-making” to argue that the challenge is not to find some yet to be discovered new golden bullet. Rather the challenge is to make sense of what we know. In chapter one, this focuses on the impact of organisational culture on leadership.

“In broad terms, our framing of effective leadership has shifted notably from the ‘Heroic’, leader-centric viewpoint to a more ‘Engaging’ one which focuses on working with followers to address the leadership of organizational challenges … In today’s complex environment, an approach to leadership which is more ‘Engaging’ appears to offer some useful pointers to more sustainable success.” (13-14, 20).

They suggest leadership is a triangle, made up of thinking, doing and being.

  • thinking is about a range of intelligences – evaluating, decision-making, planning.
  • doing is about the skills and competencies to envision, engage, enable, inquire, develop.
  • being is about authenticity, integrity, will, self-belief and self-awareness.

They then suggest the same triangle for the organisation, in which

  • thinking is in fact strategy
  • doing is policies and practices
  • being is culture, the social glue and the way things are done around here

This introduces the challenges of effective change. Research shows very clear links between an organisations culture and it’s performance. Other research shows that leaders have a strong impact on an organisation’s culture. This sets up chapter 2, which describes the challenges involved in implementing change.

Posted by steve at 07:26 PM

Monday, March 15, 2010

here’s my current definition of leadership

I’m reading a great set of participant responses to the first set of Missional Church Leadership readings – thoughtful, honest, passionate, astute. I’m responding personally to each one and I just wrote the following:

leadership is being deeply aware of the gap between what is, and what is not yet, and having the courage to attend to the gap.

What do you think? Resonate with your experience?

Posted by steve at 09:25 AM

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

cultivating imaginative leaders

All this talk of fresh expressions and pioneer leaders, and of wood fired emerging pizza church, raises the ongoing, nagging question for me, of how we cultivate imaginative leaders?

Here’s what I think is a perceptive diagnosis:

“We are not trained to engage. We are trained to duplicate. We are often not able to read stories and allow them to ignite our local imaginations. Instead we try to mine stories for timeless principles that can be readily applied.” (Keel, Intuitive Leadership: Embracing a Paradigm of Narrative, Metaphor, and Chaos, Baker, 2007, 80)

It names something really important: the lack of capacity for imagination, the way that current modes of thinking work against the imaginative.

I think that like many things, leadership is both caught and taught, art and science. It is intuitive yet can be studied. It is a gift, yet can be honed.

Which still leaves the page bare, the canvas blank. How do we cultivate imaginative leaders? How do we help leaders discern the Spirit’s uniquely creative work in their own unique context.

The talk of pioneer leaders worries me.

I worry that it emerges out of pragmatism, out of decline. If so, we are more than likely to import pragmatism into pioneer training.

I worry that we might create a separate class of person, rather than simply name a charism that is perhaps not fully appreciated in our current contexts.

I worry that we might end up leaving mission to the pioneers and not to the mixed economy “ministers of the word.”

I worry that we will simply bolt a few more courses onto what is potentially a broken way of thinking, that has, and is, training people to “timeless principles.”

Posted by steve at 10:24 AM