A series of blogs on developing Christian principles for Leadership, Organising and Learning

Part 1:

There comes a point in any human endeavour where people and activities need to be organised. When this happens we need to decide how to organise, and what leadership model to adopt.

However, I suspect that for most of us, it is more likely that we find ourselves in situations where the model for organising and leadership are already in place.

In either case, Christians should aspire to organise and work in ways that are congruent with our beliefs, values, missiology.

My sense is that many ‘not for profit’ or ‘value-based’ organisations have been seduced by commercial management methods. There seems to be a continuing notion/story/myth that this is the professional thing to do. Research has shown that many charities, public authorities such as schools, hospital, civil service and churches have gone this way.

Yes there are things we can learn from the world of commerce. However, it is important to remember that commercial methodology is based on a particular worldview, ie, capitalism. And that any techniques or solutions thereof come imbedded with capitalistic values and assumptions, which we may or may not agree with! In my experience, many Christians:

1. are not (philosophically) motivated by capital.
2. would prefer methodologies that are ‘Apolitical’ (rather than right wing).
3. want to be less individualistic, competitive and meritorious.

An alternative model is relational practice which has at its heart a philosophical commitment to inclusivity; empowerment and ethical practice. It is based on a human developmental process informed by relational attributes such as nurturing, love, connectedness, and expressions of feelings.

This is in contrast to modernist models which are based on “rational values” associated with autonomy, scientific methodology, and independence. Don’t get me wrong, we do need to use reason, and to make our thinking rationally coherent. However, a relational orientation focuses on communal interactions rather than on rational individualism.

In the relational ‘paradigm’, leaders are participants in the communal construction of meaning, purpose and action. Rather than relying on power derived from command and control, they play a key role in sense-making; and motivating people to fruitful and coherent action/s within complex situations.

This series of blogs will explore how leadership and organising might look like as relational practice. I will share these thoughts over the coming weeks. They are meant for discussion, comments, suggestions and re-working. I am hoping that this will be a way of developing these ideas further.

5 thoughts on “A series of blogs on developing Christian principles for Leadership, Organising and Learning

  1. Leadership material that I engaged with recently was using phrases such as “emergence” and “self-organisation.” This leads to two thoughts about your impressive ideal:
    1. Influences are at work which will change practice in (even) commercial organisations.
    2. Who is in a position to plan or design these alternative organisational structures, as any attempt by someone seen as a “boss” to introduce or even facilitate such change may hinder something which needs a “letting go” to allow it to emerge?

    1. Great point. I think you’ve touched on the key to creating a participative culture, that is “letting go”, and giving people permission to “get on with it”.

      There are a number of large group methodologies for doing this such as Future Search, Appreciative Inquiry Summits, Open space technology, world cafe, to name a view. There is a fantastic overview of such methods in: Mapping Dialogue: Essential Tools for Social Change (2008), by Marianne ‘Mille” Bojer, Heiko Roehl, Marianne Knuth, Colleen Magner, ISBN 978-0-9712312-8-3
      This is well worth a read.

      As globalisation and the information revolution gathers momentum, there is a need to pay attention to the wisdom of groups, and, to help people collectively make sense of the bewildering array of information. In this context leadership should be about engaging people in inquiry and creating the conditions for collective possibilities. To do this, the leader needs to create a culture that positively supports participation through empowerment, trust and collaboration.

  2. Hi Patrick
    Thanks for this. Itis always good to think!
    My experience is that increasingly the commercial world is recognising that they need to move more into a relational and communal model and that we need test what we read from every sphere. Just to look at recent HBR research – there is “When Emotional reasoning trumps IQ” Sept 2010, “The benefits of employee wellness programmes” Dec 2010. I think I sent you MIntzberg’s piece on organisations needing to become more like communities (Feb 2009), to name a fewthat immediately spring to mind.
    The reason these work is that they recognise the importance of human flourishing in their context, and that when people flourish, things work better.
    Ithink there are things we can learn from good businesses about customer focus ad good stewardship of resources (especially people’s time and talent), but the key thing to search out is how Divine Wisdom speaks into each situation and the leadershipprinciples that flow out of this.
    I would hate us to create more of a sacred secular divide as we think about leadership; different styles,language and methodologies will work better in some sectors than in others, but the lasting principles that are founded on divine wisdom apply in every sector don’t they? We see this in the life of Daniel; a great civil servant. Perhaps we would do better to focus on Christian leadership in ever sphere and then encourage people to think about the applications of Christian principles founded on Divine wisdom, in their unique context? Thanks for making us think Patrick!

  3. Thank you for very considered comments Jill.

    1. As an eminent consultant working at the cutting edge of “both worlds” you are uniquely placed to offer this observation. It is heartening that “human flourishing” in the work context is also beginning to take centre stage in the world of commerce.

    To add to your list of articles, have you seen Michael Porter’s HBR piece on “Creating Shared Value: How to reinvent capitalism – and unleash a wave of innovation and growth” yet?

    The idea of corporate social responsibility is not a new. However, in this article Porter reframes the adage… “What’s good for business (increasing capital) is good for society” to “What’s good for society is good for business”. He argues that business needs to create profits the right way, by which he means profits that come from meeting fundamental societal needs.

    In your experience, Jill, how much of this is paradigm shift is authentic, and how much of this is big business merely seeing this as the latest technique to foster employee engagement in order to increase the bottom line?

    2. You make another great point on the dangers of dichotomising and the need to reflect on, and apply divine wisdom in every sector. I would love to hear and be inspired by stories of how Christians have been doing this. It’s what I’ve asked for in Part 2 of this blog but perhaps I should be more explicit about this! It would be a fantastic to inspire each other to good works through our stories of how God is working in the context of work.

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