leading without power, part 8

in this series of posts (part 1, overview; part 2, competency facilitator; part 3, culture evangelist; part 4, mission curator, part 5, storytelling host, part 6, champion of hope, part 7, uniqueness dj) i’m ruminating on the suggestion that leadership in the church needs to move away from the traditional notions of hierarchical power we’ve embraced for so long. and i’m unpacking 9 new metaphors for “powerless leadership”. here is metaphor #7:

Contextualization Czar

in order to actively engage in most of the previous metaphors, and in order to lead via collaboration, the leader who aspires to lead without traditional hierarchical power has to become an intentional student of context. really, since we’re living in an era where culture has splintered (youth culture, for sure, but all culture is following), the role of the leader must shift.

in the 1950s (think “mad men” or the church version — even more power, slightly less cigarettes and grain alcohol), the primary approach to leadership called for the loudest voice, and maybe the ability to think forwardly.

in the 80s and 90s, all kinds of social science-like skills rose up the “skills leaders must possess” ladder: empathic listener, prophetic visionary voice, new idea generator, motivational speaker, strategy hound.

but today, in our new world, when copying the other guy (or the other business, or the other church) gets you nowhere other than a few steps behind or grossly misguided, the ability to host these collaborative questions trump the other “skills”:
– what’s our context?
– who are we called to be?
– what are we passionate about, and why?
– what’s unique to us?
– how can we become more us, rather than more like someone else?

this means that we have to be anthroplogists. the wiki-god says, “Anthropology asks ‘What defines Homo sapiens?'” see it? pretty easy to translate that for our local, rather than global, realities. “what defines us here at the youth cartel?” or “what defines us at first church?”

now, leaders have played this role in many ways over the decades and millenia. but the spirit of what we’re addressing in these posts is that power-based leadership is both unbiblical and ineffective in today’s world. so we have to think about how to ask that “what defines us” question without forcing or demanding or unilaterally deciding.

and that brings us back to… collaborative discernment.

i think i’ve written this more than once on this blog, but i think the primary skill set needed (but not present) in most church leadership today is to recover the art of spiritual discernment. understanding context, being responsive to context, and hosting collaborative discernment rooted in context might be the best gift you can give your organization.

3 thoughts on “leading without power, part 8”

  1. what a sensational post, marko. it reminds of hearing holly rankin zaher talk about the lost art of anthropology – how crucial it is to replace our marketing mindset with one of looking for the spirit of G_d moving and joining in

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