Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

confidnceIt is the most difficult

and perhaps

the most important thing.

Leaders need

informed confidence.


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I am preparing for an online class the  Presencing Institute  with Otto Scharmer‘s team.  This will be a global classroom that is considering leadership and mobilizing society for more creative change.  Fundamental to Scharmer’s thesis is that there are at least four kinds of listener.

  •  The 1st kind of listener is what Otto calls the downloading listener.  This sort of listener takes in information that confirms and affirms their habits and judgements.  When we have the experience that someone is talking about what we already know…we are in downloading mode.
  • The 2nd kind of listener is the factual listener.  The factual listener, contrasted from the downloading listener, is attending to the facts and details as informants and possible replacement parts for what the person had previously understood.  This, Scharmer notes is classically how science listens and investigates novelty.
  • The third kind of listener is the empathetic listener.    The empathetic listener makes a deep connection with the person they are listening to.  At some point, they forfeit their own point of view and imagine what it is to be in the shoes of another.  We are no longer observing another’s life but we are feeling it with our compassion.

All three of these types of listeners were familiar to me.  Scharmer’s description of each was a nice summary and reminder.  However, it was the fourth type of listener that really pulled my attention.  This fourth type of listener is what Scharmer he Generative Listener.   It is this mode of listening is the most profound possibility for each of us.  For in the listening to another person, we become a different person.  We are so profoundly affected that we begin to imagine ourselves and our own possibilities differently.

In the first form of listening, we  as leaders might try to develop a plan that will fix the people in our lives or the situations in which we find ourselves.  After many futile efforts in my own life, I1 have come to believe that God does not intend me to fix another.

When we are listening at level two  we may try to apply our new information in a competition mode.  So that either we know more than another or so that we can strive toward greater accomplishment with the new information.

When we are listening at level three we may find that we no longer want to fix someone.  However, it is necessary for us to adjust ourselves in order to be in relationship with what we now imagine and understand about them.  Pity can be at work or the need to explain another to ourselves or company.

But what happens when we listen at level four?  It seems that level four might make use of all the practiced multitasking that each of us do each day.  That we allow there to be a place in our innermost self where our work, our family, our agitation, our appetites our sense of self are all in dialogue with one another even when we are seemingly in conversation with only one person.  Isn’t it amazing how, in certain conversations, we have revelations and new understandings?    We feel a bit transformed but can’t explain how or why!

Scharmer’s ideas are very new and interesting to me.  Do any of you readers of this blog have experiences with the generative level of listening?

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You say tomato, I say tomahto.  You say Potato, I say potahto. 

Congregations. Change. Redevelopment. Transformation. Leadership.  When congregations want to experience change in order to redevelop and transform their ministries, they often look to their leaders or to their next leader in order to innovate and persuade toward the change.  Leaders buy right in because they are are searching for congregations in which to exercise their pastoral leadership and experience effectiveness.  As pastoral leaders and congregations court one another in the call process, I can imagine that they brainstorm with one another about what is possible for the local ministry.  Perhaps they feel the Spirit as they brainstorm and dream.  With the sense that the Spirit has blessed their courtship, the pastoral leader and congregation discern a call and their partnership begins without more specific language. 

What follows are the challenges of translating the pastor’s language to the congregation’s language and vice versa as they implement what they have dreamed about.  Experts in psychology and counseling understand that as individuals communicate, what they mean and how they are understood can be two very different things.   For example, author  Gary Chapman has written books on The Five Languages of Love  in order to guide couples through the challenges of understanding each other more accurately. 

Congregations and pastors have an interpretive tool at their disposal when they intentionally assess the extent of redevelopment that may be required in a congregation.  With the help of a discerning Presbytery, a congregation and pastor in the courtship phase of conversation can look specifically at the areas in the congregation’s life that are in need of redevelopment.  For example, is redevelopment needed in Sunday School, in worship, in staff development, in stewardship, in rapport with the community, or in programming for the membership? The more areas identified the higher the stakes.  The higher the stakes the more important it is to assist pastors and congregations from the brainstorming phase to intentional discussions about style and goal setting for ministry.

Organizational Development expert Warner W. Burke, author of Organizational change:  Theory and Practice,  makes a distinction between evolutionary and revolutionary change.  Revolutionary change is characterized by quick changes to structure and parts in order to get a rapid result.  Evolutionary change is characterized by slower changes that alternates between changes to the structure of ministry and attending to the effects of those structural changes on relationships.  There is an irony involved.  I believe that the more areas that need redevelopment the more the pastors and congregations may brainstorm in a revolutionary style.  However, once they are on the ground, the congregation finds the revolutionary style impacts their relationships.  They call for more pastoral attention and less change.  Pastors’ may feel frustrated that their change efforts are so ill received.  They declare in frustration that the congregation does not really want to change.  The truth of the matter is that the revolutionary style may be much better suited when redevelopment is only needed in a few areas.  

The revolutionary model of leadership is critically important to new church development where new community and relationships are a part of the equation.  However, in urban, rural and suburban areas of redevelopment, where relationships can be longstanding a more evolutionary model is more likely to  sustain the entire Body of Chirst (structure and relationships).  While the revolutionary model is much sexier then the evolutionary model, Organizational Development experts remind us that when reconfiguring an existing organization, the evolutionary model provides the most resilient results. 

How we help congregations and pastors have these sorts of specific conversations may determine the vitality of the Presbyterian Church USA as it both launches novel Christian communities as well as revitalizing its existing communities. 

Do you have experience with redevelopment?  Does the premise of this blog fit with your experience?  I would welcome your feedback.

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