SEE US IN A NEW LIGHT
Siftings: Emerging Leadership
These occasional short reflections by the Very Revd. Geoff Miller, Dean of Newcastle focus on his ministry and lifetime of learning:
What then does it take to be a good (effective) leader? A million-dollar question with a myriad of would-be responses. It is the subject of academic studies and popular biographies with conflicting contenders. Now obviously different leadership styles are needed for different situations. Patient listening and taking wide counsel would not be helpful in clearing a building on fire! In crisis moments decisive and confident leadership needs to kick in. However, such directive leadership of an organisation about its everyday work can soon become tyrannical and counter-productive. Turning intelligent, well-disposed workers into bored, wage slaves who are too timid and debased to use any initiative or creativity.
Two so-called “management theories” have always inspired me, even more inspiring is when I have been privileged to see them in action. Robert Greenleaf developed his theory of Servant Leadership following his reading of Herman Hesse’s novella Journey to the East. The narrator tells a story of a pilgrimage to find the truth that falls apart when Leo, a servant goes, missing. Only later does the narrator come to know that the “servant” is in reality the great and noble leader. For Hess and Greenleaf, the unassuming servant facilitates the personal well-being and effective contribution of all the folk as co-workers on the project.
In 2014 Mark McKergow and Helen Bailey proposed we think of leadership in a different way: as a hosting activity – drawing people together around an issue or challenge, engaging them and getting results through others – in much the same way we do when we host a party. The good host/leader facilitates change by helping make connections, develop synergy, coordinate their skill and energy.
“Serving” and “Hosting” are two leadership paradigms that for me resonate with a desire to co-create rather than dictate. To build a creative and liberating community rather than one that dominates deskills and enslaves. For me, a hybrid approach of these two systems is a consideration worth trying. And I will.