Saturday
Apr052014

Leadership: Where did we wrong?

We are products of the choices we make and slaves of the paradigms we adopt.

Power and authority plays important roles in all forms of leaderships. The people we describe as “Good Leaders” are those who exercise authority without making their power visible. Theses are the people with enormous goodwill. The old addage, “Power corrupts” is not necessarily true. But what is true is that leaders who misuse their power fall into the trap of thinking that they are invincible. Power is a great assest. But, if not controlled properly, it will control you.

Serving is not the abdication of power but the right use of it. Generally, when we speak of serving we imply subjection, obedience, discipline, and even bondage. It is also assumed that the term “serving leader” is a contradiction, because servants do not lead. In the mind of Jesus it was not even a paradox. The serving of the master is a paradox only for those who cannot but view these two as mutually exclusive. But, for Jesus they were one and the same. He could not envisage a master who did not serve.

A few years ago, during a leadership retreat, one of the participants shared with me how disillusioned he feels about his accomplishments. I began to feel a great sorrow deep within me as we conversed because I know that this man is the envy of at least three generations of aspiring leaders. He is a leader of leaders. Hundreds want to do what he does. Thousands want to learn from him the secret of successful leadership.

“Where do you think you have gone wrong?” I asked him.

“In my eagerness to get things done, I forgot to take people with me. I failed to invest in people. Now I am at the top, but I am all alone. There is no one to stand with me.”

I felt sorry for him. Do you understand why I felt sorry? After all his accomplishments he still felt disillusioned. But I felt it more for the people he was leading. They are the ones who missed out because of his failure. They were like sheep without a shepherd. There is no shortage of leaders in today’s world. But where are the shepherds?

QUESTIONS TO PONDER:

Does our position in community shape our character and determine how we behave towards others?

Why did Jesus choose to live “as one who serves?”

Why do we find it difficult to choose to live “as one who serves?”

 


[1] Paradox is the ability of apparent contradictions to exist side by side. 

Monday
Mar242014

Leading the Next Generation

We are all leaders. A mother, a father, a bus conductor, a schoolteacher, a friend, a neighbour, a poice woman, a priest - no matter what role you play right now, you are a leader. This is not a matter of choice. In fact, the only choice we have is, what kind of leaders we become? A good leader or a bad one!

I have spent most of my life with young people- guiding them, leading them, learning from them, and even getting into trouble with them. From what I have observed and learned, I list below certain leadership characteristics that inspire and influence the so-called NEXT GENERATION.

The qualities and characteristics of leaders the next generation seeks

 1. Connectedness

Connection cannot happen in a relationship vacuum. Therfore a good leader needs to continue to develop relational skills.

The next generation has replaced reason with relationship. It is not the same as, “Love is all you need.”

You may be able to argue a case with great success or prove a point with your logic, but if you don’t know how to love and care, you are not a leader. “I do not call you servants but I call you friends,” said Jesus to his disciples.

2. Egalitarian

Situational rather than positional

Associates rather than assistants. Lead in a team rather than solo. Learn to deligate and share responsibility and authority.

You may hold high positions due to your caste, class, qualifications or even wealth, but your heirarchical position will not attract next generation followers. Theirs is a horizondal rather than a vertical leadership structure.

3. Accepted rather than appointed

Integrity and genuineness

Keep your promise

Your authority comes from your lifestyle rather than the position you hold or the promise you make. So learn to walk the talk. The next generation followers are not afraid of leaders who make mistakes but they have no time for leaders who pretent to be perfect. You may be a biolgial father but you are not a father until your children accept you as their father. Some fathers and mothers are worse than strangers.

4. Authority is earned, not attributed

Charima and character not connections and qualifications. Spiritual gifts, not theological qualifications

Your influence, not hierarchical power is what matters

You make sense when you walk with people in their every day experiences of life. The next generation is more interested in who they are walking with rather than where they are going. You can buy sex or popularity but you cannot buy love. It is given and received not bought and traded.

5. Principled but flexible

Prepared to learn and adapt.

Less concerned with programmes, more concerned with people.

Patient with those who are different from them.

Next genration leaders are not people who know everything and they don’t claim to be flawless. They are men and women who know that they walk on feet of clay. They take time to understand other points of views and ways of doing things.

 6. Accept the misuse of authority in the past

Willing to learn from both the success and failures of the past.

Past is not all glory. It also contains shame. We learn from both.

Need for humility and credibility, not positional power

The next generation needs leaders who forgive in grace rather than punish in anger. They are not afraid of God’s wrath because they know that God remembers to be merciful in His wrath.

 

Managers are people who do things right, while leaders are people who do the right thing.”

Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader.

 

 

Feel free to leave a comment

Wednesday
Feb262014

Formation of a Molecular Community

Formation of a Molecular Community

Thoughts gathered from the book “The different Drum” by Scott Peck.

Scott Peck is mostly known for his book, The Road Less Travelled. But his lesser known book, The Different Drum, is mostly about communities. Here are some of my own interpretations and insights from his book.

This is what Scott Peck says about the group that met in Ralph’s basement (Don’t ask me who Ralph is. I don’t know).

“There is not much more to tell- just a group of people who get together to support one another with their difficult ministries” (151). It started with two people who felt they needed support. They discovered that the best way to feel supported was to support another.

The group began to operate with a basic structure and minimum agenda. “It was decided to begin each meeting with three minutes of silence and end with each member saying a brief, heartfelt prayer out loud. Beyond the set time of two hours and the simple liturgy of opening silence and closing prayer there was no structure in the group. A member could speak about whatever he wanted whenever the spirit moved him. The only rule was vulnerability. Members agreed to push themselves to be as vulnerable as possible. They shortly came to realize vulnerability required not only that they speak of intimate matters but also that they listen to one another with openness and a relative emptiness of judgment. They had become a true community.” (152)

The group that met in the basement of Ralph eventually consisted of all sorts of people including an atheist and an alcoholic. But Ted, the alcoholic did not last very long. Reflecting on this experience Peck (he was not part of that group) says, “Ted has learned nothing from the experience, they at least had learned something about their limitations.” Not a bad learning point! Sometimes God brings people along our way who may learn nothing from us but they can help us see what we are made of- the real us.

The group did not see themselves as a therapy group. They were just a support group. Through trial and error “it came to the wisdom that attempts to heal or convert were generally more destructive than supportive.” (154) Just because they did not “attempt” to heal, it did not mean that no healing happened. Healing was intentionally happening because that is the very purpose of the existence of a support group. The difference is that no one assumed the superior position of a healer and no one was assigned the inferior status of infirm. They were all in need of healing and they all had the power to heal and that is what a “healthy” community looks like.

What to do with members who are not able to attend regularly? How about those who drift in and out? “It was decided that some people did need to test the waters before arriving at a commitment and that as long as there was a substantial nucleus of the committed, the group was able to bear the burden of the uncommitted.” (157)

Community and Structure According to Peck, “community is not possible with either no structure or total structure. With no structure there is chaos. With total structure there is no room for emptiness… There is no agenda… Vulnerability is the only rule.” (159) Vulnerability is not the same as weakness. On the contrary it is proactive and potent, disarming without being defensive, disrobing without making one feel naked. In reality, this is healing in its very raw essence.

This group restricted itself to a single task: mutual support.

Peck does not tell us when or how a group becomes a community

Friday
Nov292013

The Secret of Staying Happy

Last week a close friend asked me on Facebook, “How does one stay happy all the time?” Not a new question but an important one. After all what is more important in life than happiness? Is it not the essence of human quest?

The secret of happiness is as illusive as the elixir for immortality. There is nothing in this world that can make one happy. Happiness is a choice. I have, over the years, observed certain ingredients for happiness. The first is a grateful heart. The unhappiest people in the world are those who have no one or nothing to thank for. They think only about what every one else owes them – their rights and privileges.

Thankfulness and contentment seem to travel together. It is very difficult to be thankful without contentment. We must take care not to confuse contentment with mediocrity. They are not the same. In fact they are poles apart. Saint Paul said, “I know how to be in want and I know how to be in plenty. I have learned the habit of facing abundance and hunger.” Elsewhere he said, “I press towards the goal.”

The Sanskrit word “kshema” in Malayalam has a dual meaning – patience and forgiveness. Well, if there is another secret ingredient to happiness, it must be “kshema”. Patience is like love. It believes and hopes. Forgiveness is also like love – it does not keep account of wrongdoing but takes the risk of being betrayed again. When we speak of “faith in God,” we are possibly referring to these qualities of life cultivated over a long period of time.

I have also found that people who are generally happy seem to have a “wider” comfort zone than those who claim to be unhappy. Comfort zone is that area of life where a person can move freely without undue self-consciousness – fear of rejection or feeling the need to perform. When we speak of men and women of faith, we are thinking of people who have cultivated a healthy comfort zone in their relationship with God. They don’t feel the need to pretend or cover-up. They live each moment with the assurance of God’s love and acceptance. This is the meaning of the phrase, “Just as I am.”

Earlier I said that happiness is a choice. Happiness is also a gift. It is a gift of God and the community we belong to. The kind of God one believes in and the type of community one belongs to can enhance or impair one’s happiness.

The happiest happiness is when one is unaware of the reasons for his/her happiness. Blessed are those who do not seek a reason for their happiness for they shall always be happy.

 

Tuesday
Mar192013

Give Us This Day....

God calls us to repent of our selfish ways and to live not just as individuals, but in loving community.

Jesus taught us to pray, “Give US today OUR daily bread,” not give ME today MY daily bread.

So, what happens if I am not hungry?

Would I still need to pray this prayer?

What if I have enough bread at home for the next several days?

Is this prayer just an indication of my grateful heart? Is it not also a reminder from God that there are hungry people around me and that he expects me to be mindful of their needs and their prayers? 

When we pray “Give us…” we also include all those who are without food today. But we cannot pray that prayer unless we have thought about them first and done whatever we could for them. Otherwise, that prayer, we know, is a meaningless prayer. It may also be possible that I have sufficient bread for today because God has answered my neighbour’s prayer.

The Christian message cannot become authentic until the Christian community becomes what Jesus intended it to be.