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 

1 comment:

  1. I think your point about needing to learn how to handle power before the moment of power is a very good one. I also think that we have often been guilty of trying to manipulate false consciousness; suggesting to people that, if they do not agree with us, they may go to hell is a fairly forceful way of arguing your point, though fortunately it probably does not work so often as it used to.