Friday, June 13, 2008

Leadership and Formation

June 13, 2008

How about this as a working understanding of leadership? “Leaders are people who function effectively in their circles of influence and in a variety of circumstances.”

Martyn Percy is President of Ripon College, Cuddeson, a theological college in the Church of England. He talks of the training of clergy as “deep and rich composition” and “character formed within the Christian story and the demands of the gospel” (Formation in a Church of England Seminary in Anglican Theological Review Spring 2008, Vol. 90, No.2 p.289)

He calls this formation a “deep and subtle journey…a marathon, not a sprint,” and says that there “has to be some trust in the continuing process of discernment, and less concern about the outcome: Christ is Lord of the journey.” (p.291). Third, he explores the “tacit and intuitive knowledge” gained by experience and the consequent desirability of deep and personal sharing “how issues are addressed and resolved, and how individuals and organizations fare in this, and what reflections or analysis one may have about them…”(p.293). He writes of openness, vulnerability and the possibility of failure as part of the reality of this formation and the cultivation of ‘holy wisdom’ through continual attention to the relationship between embodiment, power and wisdom.”(p.294).

Edwin Friedman took a similar tack when he wrote about leadership for “parents and presidents…CEOs and educators, prioresses and coaches, healers and generals, managers and clergy.”(A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix Seabury, 2007 p.2)

Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky tell of how “every day brings you opportunities to raise important questions, speak to higher values, and surface unresolved conflict. Every day you have a chance to make a difference in the lives of people around you.”(Leadership on the Line Harvard Business School Press 2002 p.2)

They talk about the courage and character it takes to lead people through difficult change that challenges what others hold most dear.

Leadership is not something that can be taught even though there are some matters of information and technique that can be useful for reflection in developing or forming the character of leaders. There is a sense in which every Christian is, or could be, a leader by definition.

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