Saturday, 28 March 2009

hit the ground kneeling (2)

In the second chapter of Hit The Ground Kneeling +Stephen Cottrell debunks another management speak phrase which has crept into thinking about Christian leadership: ‘I need to make my mark’. Cottrell argues that this is not the object of leadership, at least not in the way the phrase is usually understood.

Instead he argues that the aim of leadership is:
‘To enable others to do their very best and to achieve their fullest potential, and for the purpose of your organisation – whatever it is – to be advanced.’
I find this view of Christian Leadership both attractive and liberating. It frees one from the pressure of continually trying to prove oneself to parishioners, colleagues and senior staff and from seeking affirmation of one’s ministry by meeting a false set of criteria. It also affirms a conviction that leadership is to be exercised in collaboration with others not in competition over against others.

This view of leadership challenges a very unpleasant feature of leadership models in which success is measured over and against others. Take for example the television programme The Apprentice. The whole presupposition of the show is that the best apprentice will be the one who succeeds over a period of weeks in out performing the other competitors. On the way the budding apprentices are given tasks where it appears they are working together but actually they are competing with each other and so cliques form, people ‘stitch each other up’, sometimes lie or consciously subvert the task in order to undermine a colleague. Occasionally this behaviour leads to the eviction of the perpetrator but often such behaviour is rewarded. It can make for entertaining T.V., however, I find myself questioning the aims and values of a leader and organisation that encourages such qualities.

So where does one look for affirmation if it is not to be found in making my mark? Cottrell points back to the Baptism of Jesus.
‘For Jesus, this affirmation, which is the wellspring of his ministry, comes in a single defining moment, the effects of which are felt for the rest of his life. As he surfaces out of the waters of baptism, he hears a voice from heaven say, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11)’

Affirmation in leadership comes from knowing that we are known and loved by the Father and it is out of our relationship with him that all else flows. This does not mean that the Christian leader doesn’t have tasks and responsibilities; it does mean that success in leadership is not measured by the mark that I make and have been known to make in a particular context.

‘The Christian leader – whatever the organisation – can be the still point at the centre of the maelstrom, the one whose judgement can be trusted, the one who is not seeking her own ends or his own self-advancement, but cares for those in their charge. Such leaders have an inner security and peace that is both a gift from God and the most important gift they can bestow on others: they are leaders who allow themselves to be led.’

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