With fear and trembling I wonder: how would Jesus lead; or rather, how does he lead?
First, regarding the basis of my hypothesis: I believe God created everything and everything reflects his creative hand (John 1). Therefore, we can seek truth in biblical revelation as well as creation revelation. Both require a great deal of discernment and therefore risk.
Second, regarding the substance of my hypothesis, I believe the following.
From the “Normal State of Leadership” to the “Fundamental State of Leadership”
Robert Quinn, in Building the Bridge As We Walk Acoss It, explains the differences. In the Normal State of Leadership,
“[We] seek equilibrium. In the normal state, we are comfort-centered, externally-directed, self-focused, and [externally] closed. We construct a world of social exchange and economic transaction. The central purpose of anyone in such a system is to obtain status and resources while avoiding pain and punishment. When emerging reality threatens our deeply held values by suggesting we need to move into the unknown, we resist. We become self-deceptive because we say change is needed, yet we want to avoid the risk of losing what we have, so we seek to ‘manage’ change in ways we do not find deeply threatening” (p. 69).
“In the normal state, we typically employ two general strategies of change: Telling, that is, making logical arguments for change and Forcing, that is, using forms of leverage such as threat or firing or ostracizing. Less often, we use a third strategy, Participating, that is, using open dialogue and pursuing win-win strategies” (p. 69).
Telling: Relying on the Technical (Impersonal Relationships)
The telling strategy is based on the technical (expertise tof the speaker) and its goal is to persuade for, or in favor of, the speaker’s perception of truth.
“The Telling strategy assumes that people are guided by reason. If others decide it is in their best interest to change, they’ll gladly do so. Any resistance to change [the perspective assumes] could only be the product of ignorance and superstition” (p. 70).
“The Telling strategy is most effective for situations in which people are not very invested” (p. 70). “The Telling strategy is not as effective in situations requiring significant behavioral change because it is based on a narrow, cognitive view of human systems” (p. 70).
Unfortunately, our most frequent mode of influencing others is seeking to increase our share of and power of voice, or telling.
Forcing: Relying on the Political (Impersonal Relationships)
The forcing strategy is based on the political (the power of the speaker or the power of the speaker’s position) and its goal is to enforce something or force someone to do something in favor of the speaker.
“The Forcing strategy seeks to leverage people into changing. Usually some form of political or economic power is exerted. Efforts may range from subtle manipulation to physical force. The Forcing strategy usually evokes anger, resistance, and damage to the fundamental relationship. Thus, it is not like to result in the kind of voluntary commitment that is necessary for healthy and enthusiastic change…” (p. 71).
“In the normal state, then, we commonly seek to create change by engaging in a two-step process: first, tell others why they need to change; second, if telling fails, figure out how to force them to change” (p. 71).
Participating: Relying on Interpersonal Relationships
The participating strategy is based on the interpersonal and attempts to influence others by engaging them in the conversation. It is a norming (converging) activity in that it tends build consensus.
“The Participating strategy involves a more collaborative approach. This approach recognizes that people are influenced by habits, norms, and institutional policies and culture. Here the change agent welcomes the input of others, who are seen as equals in the change process. Instead of trying to make change happen simply by providing information, as in the Telling strategy, the change agent focuses on surfacing, clarifying, and reconstructing people’s values and on resolving hidden conflicts. The emphasis is on communication and cooperation…” (p. 71).
“Participating strategies and active listening require that each person allows the other to express his or her own truth while insisting that his or her own truth be heard. The exchange can then give rise to a new and more complex truth” (p. 71).
Here are Some (Visionary) Metaphors for the Participating Perspective
- Parenting: “What’s the major thing you and I do as parents?….We try to teach [our children] to make good decisions….You spend your whole life as parents trying to find the right balance between giving advice, correcting mistakes, letting them go, fixing up the bumps and bruises along the way. All so they can learn to make their own decisions” (Dennis Bakke, The Decision Maker, p. 170). In other words, we allow our children to participate so that they eventually can make decisions on their own. (I personally dislike this metaphor because it is “paternal” by comparison.)
- Coaching: “Tom and Sophia congratulated Jason and followed the flow of the crowd out to the parking lot. Tom still couldn’t get the look he’d soon on Jason’s face, the moment before he took the shot, out of his head. It should have been a hard spot to be in: serious pressure, with serious consequences. So why had Jason looked so happy?…The answer struck him as he was opening the car door for Sophia Jason had been happy because he had the ball. For that one moment, he was the only person in the gymnasium who had control over what was about to happen ((Dennis Bakke, The Decision Maker, p. 27)…You don’t see the coaches dribbling up and down the basketball court. That’s not what they are supposed to do. They choose the players to send in. And then they stand back and let the players play the game. You can’t tell a player what to do every single play. It will ruin the game (p. 28)…People were happiest when they had the ball, when they were in a position to make the decisions that affected their world” (p. 29). (I cringe at this metaphor as well, unless we are talking about engaging younger people to participate and not peers because this metaphor still has a paternal feeling to it.)I
- Conducting: “I enjoy jazz and one way to think about leadership is to consider a jazz band. Jazz-band leaders must choose the music, find the right musicians, and perform–in public. But the effect of the performance depends on so many things–the environment, the volunteers playing in the band, the need for everybody to perform as individuals and as a group, the absolute dependence of the leader on the members of the band, the need of the leader for the followers to play well….A jazz band is an expression of servant leadership. The leader of the jazz band has the beautiful opportunity to draw the best out of the other musicians (Max DePree, Leadership Jazz, p. 8,9). (This is my favorite metaphor for participative leadership.)
- Riding in the Bus: Jim Collins in Good to Great made this one famous. One has to have the right people on the bus and right people in the right seats on the bus. (This metaphor can work if everyone on the bus is discussing where the bus is heading and how it will get there.)
Later on, to get the right people on the bus and in the right seats, Billy had to “clean house” (another example of “forcing change”). Then Billy and Peter engaged the players in decisions about how they would hit and field. They coached based on information provided by the tools and techniques of the new paradigm.
The Fundamental State of Leadership: Transcending Persona Relationships
“The fundamental state of leadership is a temporary psychological condition. When we are in this state, we become more purpose-centered, internally-driven, other-focused, and externally-open” (p. 21).
- “We become less comfort-centered and more purpose-centered. We stop asking, What do I want?…Instead we ask, What result do I want to create?…[That] may attract us outside our comfort zone and into the uncertain journey that is the creative state. As we begin to pursue purpose in the face of uncertainty, we gain hope and energy” (p. 22).
- “[We] also become less externally-directed and more internally-directed….We begin to transcend our own hypocrisy, closing the gap between who we think we are and who we think we should be” (p. 22).
- “[We] also become less self-focused and more other-focused. As our sense of achievement and integrity increases, we feel more secure, less selfish, and more willing to put the common good ahead of the preservation of self” (p. 22).
- “[We] become less internally-closed and more externally-open. When we meet our needs for increased achievement, integrity, and affiliation, we increase our confidence that we can learn our way forward in an uncertain and changing world” (p. 23).
Being in the Fundamental State of Leadership is referred to by Quinn as a Transcending Strategy.
But there is more to the Transcending Strategy than being in the Fundamental State. It also involves, as Quinn suggests, an invitation to others to voluntarily join and “emergent reality.”
From his book Change the World in which he studied the leadership experiences of Jesus, Gandhi, and MLK, Quinn provides the following seed thoughts for transcending leadership:
- A vision of productive community
- Looking within our own souls and embracing the gap between who we want to become and what we do
- Transcending fear, surrendering, and becoming the vision of productive community
- Encouraging others through moral authority
Based on what I know about Jesus, Gandhi, and MLK, to Quinn’s list I would add:
- Teaching — making disciples
Thus, I believe a Transcending Approach to Leadership transcends the other strategies and involves:
- Telling others about the vision of what is and what will be
- Inviting others to participate in that vision and giving them ownership
- Mentoring, praying with, and teaching those who accept the invitation
- Being an example by embodying the vision
- Disturbing the system through force but not violence (e.g., Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem; Gandhi’s March to the Sea, MLK’s March from Selma to Montgomery, etc.)
- Encouraging through moral authority
Here are Some Visionary Metaphors for the Transcending Perspective
- Sheep: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
- Salt: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot” (Matthew 5:13).
- Light: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
- Leaven: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough” (Matthew 13:33).
- Mustard Seed: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32).
- Wine skins: “Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved” (Matthew 9:17).
I’m not a theologian. However, it seems to me that between his Birth and Resurrection, Jesus led via a Transcending Strategy. Now, between his Resurrection and Consummation (when he returns again), Jesus seems to be leading through others the same way.
So what does that mean for us if we are followers of Christ?