Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Finding our leadership gloves

Ever witnessed the detailed care, training and equipment that go into maintaining a nuclear power reactor?  Or even just fixing a broken power line? One can’t just pick it up and have a go, why?  Because when power is ignored… people get hurt.   

Doing a Ph.D. in leadership development opened my eyes to the vast amount of money, time and energy that go into creating exciting and ‘efficient’ ways of developing leaders.   We have learnt how to manage our time, energy and passion, how to think systematically, organically and strategically and we've been told how to cast vision, engineer culture and create personal presence.   But where do leaders learn how to handle power? How are we providing ‘rubber gloves’ for our leaders to handle power?

As Christians we are not even meant to talk about power let alone seek it out.  But here is a great paradox, power is the oxygen of leadership!   We can rename power as: influence, emotional intelligence, organisational astuteness or relational skills, whatever makes us feel more comfortable as Christian leaders.  But the moment we sidestep the ‘power paradox’ and ignore that we have to handle some form of power … people get hurt.  

The corrupting power, of power, is that you never think it will corrupt you! 

Yet handling power is not something that can be developed in the moment of power, because then it is too late.  It is not something you can learn by all by yourself, because you can’t empower yourself against power.   Nor is it something you can put in the ‘interesting thought box’ because as Churchill reminded us “those who ride on the backs of tigers soon end up inside.”

The presence of this danger has been demonstrated by a recent church ‘scandal’ in North America.  Unfortunately, scandals are as old as history but what seems unique in this situation is it involved no sex, money or heresy but rather the misuse of power.  As a result ‘spiritual abuse’ has now become a hot topic but who is raising the question, how are we developing leaders to handle power?

How do you think we can best develop leaders’ rubber gloves?   I hope you will consider contributing your thoughts, skills and expertise at Modems upcoming conference where we will discuss these issues and more.  

Rob sharp 

Saturday, 4 October 2014

One-way and multi-way leadership conversations

There must have been church leaders who had a sneaking envy of Tesco – the efficiency, the decisiveness, the way people obeyed orders, the growth and the aura of success. Tesco is now unravelling and we are seeing some of the consequences of that one-way leadership. According to a recent article, right to the top, people had to give good news about their departments or risk at least being humiliated in public, or fired. The most senior management were insulated from any bad news about what was going on, and isolated from any different ideas or new conversation which could have helped them change direction and develop anything new for their company.

MODEM is a hub where different ideas about leadership, management and ministry can meet, a space where those ideas can be discussed and played with, and a conversation as we work together on how those ideas can be improved, and how they can be applied in our own situations. Many of us are suspicious of anyone who tells us how to lead or manage. That is a one-way leadership conversation, and they do not know our situation as well as we do. It is completely different if we have the opportunity to take others’ ideas, discuss them and think them through for ourselves.

Our annual conference is a hub for such conversations. It gives us the chance to listen to distinguished speakers who have thought long and hard about what they are saying, and to talk to them and each other as we work through their ideas. This year we are enhancing that conversation by starting it before the conference and continuing it afterwards, all through the wonders of blogging. Not only does this mean that we can get our ideas going earlier and keep them going afterwards, but it also means that many more of us in the MODEM community can think together.

Even if you are unlucky enough not to be able to get to the conference, please join the conversation through this blog and help us all to get working on a multi-way conversation.

David Sims
Chair, MODEM

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Welcome to Modem's 2014 conference blog.

This blog is designed to help promote conversations before, during and after Modem's annual conference in London on 2 December.

You can find details of the conference, including how to book, here.

The team organising the conference is made up of
Tim Harle, Modem Vice-Chair,
Sue Miller, Methodist Church, and
Rob Sharp, Salford University. 

In addition to our blogs, you may find entries from Modem's Chair, David Sims (DS), and Secretary, Derek McAuley (DM).

If there's a topic you'd like to see discussed at the conference, please add a comment or send us an email

If you'd like to submit a Proposal for a short presentation on a piece of research, case study, or just something you're passionate about, please email us a short (max 250 word) summary.

We look forward to hearing from you, and our conversations together.

Tim, Sue & Rob

Saturday, 27 September 2014

New Book - Managing Religion: The Management of Christian Religious and Faith-Based Organization Volume 1: Internal Relationships by Malcolm Torry

New Book - Managing Religion: The Management of ChristianReligious and Faith-Based Organization Volume 1: Internal Relationships by Malcolm Torry (Hardcover (304 pages) £75.00  ISBN 9780230347946. Published September 2014 by Palgrave Macmillan

“Religion is an increasingly significant factor in our society, so understanding religious and faith-based organizations is more important than ever. Until now Malcolm Torry's Managing God's Business has been the only wide-ranging survey of the characteristics of religious and faith-based organizations. Now, in his first of two volumes, Managing Religion: The Management of Religious Organizations offers the first comprehensive discussion of the management of religious and faith-based organizations (in this case of Christian ones). Each chapter offers a discussion of the earliest Christian organizations based on New Testament evidence; a study of modern religious and faith-based organizations and their management based on classic and recent research literature, and where necessary on new theory; and an exploration of aspects of secular management theory that might or might not be appropriate to the management of religious and faith-based organizations. This book is essential reading for anyone involved in the management of organizations in the vast and increasingly important religious sector.” (Palgrave Macmillan) (DMcA)

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Control and Grace

[This originally appeared as the Chair's piece in MODEM Matters issue 27 in May 2014]

A favourite part of my daily diet is Richard Rohr’s broadcast email. In the last few weeks he has got me thinking more and more about the tragedy of Christians, or the Church, abusing religion to control people. Rohr frequently argues that this is the opposite of the grace of God, and that releasing ourselves from such control (which he calls ‘discharging your loyal soldier’) is an essential part of spiritual growth.

I think this is an interesting question for Modem as a community because the myth that ‘leaders’ can and should control others in their organizations is still widespread in secular organizations, and is still tragically fashionable in Churches. We can see church authorities in all denominations doing huge damage to the energy and effectiveness for the gospel of churches by confusing control with leadership. As Margaret Wheatley puts it, ‘In this chaotic world we need leaders. But we don’t need bosses’. Leaders, in her view, maintain clarity about the purpose and direction of the organization. Bosses control.

Can we, as a community, make a contribution to this?
David Sims