Thursday, April 7, 2011

Transformational Leadership

Last Friday and Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend a church leadership retreat with the staff and session (elders) at First Pres. It was sooooo good. Maybe because the cookies-to-people relationship was pretty hefty. :)

It was a working retreat, the first of two such weekends. We spent the time getting our bearings as a leadership team—discussing our distinctives and strengths as a congregation and identifying areas where we might be a little stuck as a Body.

Two things fascinated me: First in the process of identifying collective strengths, we were asked to break into groups and share pivotal stories from our time at FPC. We moved from there to sharing stories that have become "legend" within the congregation. You know: Those stories that get told over and over and everyone knows them, even if you weren't actually there when the thing happened.

Our facilitator said, "Just watch—even though you are split into three different groups and you won't all hear each other's stories, the same themes will emerge from all of the groups." Sure enough, that's what happened.

The other thing that really caught my attention was the way the facilitator defined "transformational leadership." Some problems, he said, are tactical problems. Change a simple habit or pattern and you solve the problem. Other problems are strategic—those require some change of vision or thinking to solve them.

And then there are the real sticking points—places where you can't seem to break out of a bad pattern no matter how hard you try. And the solution to these was surprising: leadership toward true transformation is about conflict management. You have to either introduce or allow conflict and then manage it as the people work toward resolution. The transformation comes through the process of resolving conflict, either internally or interpersonally.

Wow! That really resonated with me. Maybe because once it was highlighted for me, I could clearly see the principle at work in my own life. Because let's be honest. I am not going to really change anything at a foundational level unless I am so uncomfortable with the way things are that I have no choice but to change.

The process is perhaps messier when the conflict is external, but it's not too hard to see how the same principle applies.

At the next retreat (in May), we'll spend the 1.5 days talking about areas where our congregation needs some transformational leadership.

1 comment:

  1. I love this kind of stuff. Got to find out more about conflict management