What does effective leadership look like? I am convinced that one of the reasons Donald Trump was elected President was his reputation and promise of strong leadership. In the midst of a very chaotic time, when so much change is being ushered in, when workers are dislocated by technology and what was once certainty is now just an opinion there is a deep need for the “strong leader”. The trouble with this need is that those who express the desire for someone like Trump are assuming he will be a strong leader who will do their bidding. It shall be very interesting to watch how all those white working class men in their 40’s and 50’s react to Trump’s “strong leadership” when it puts him at odds with their interests.
We live in a time where persons expect to be consulted. Last night in a conversation about Ministry personnel and leadership styles the opinion around the table was unanimous, the leadership they like is the style where everyone is heard. Yet in the same breath these same persons want a “strong leader” who will come into the church and “clean house”. The obvious tension here is how does this leader “listen” to every opinion and then offer “strong” leadership that “cleans house”? As the young people say, “good luck with that!”
I think this is another example of spending our time on websites that we already agree with, clustered with friends and colleagues who share our opinion, assuming that if “they” listened to “us” everything could easily be solved. Thus what sounds like a contradiction to most, the need for a consultative leader and the need for a “strong leader” is resolved by the consultation being exercised with “us” and the strong leader “cleaning house” with “them”.
What I think makes for an effective leader is the ability to access all assets within the group and then the ability to organize these assets into action. Leaders who fail to access all of the assets in the group are not listening to everyone. These are leader who walk into an organization and hand pick like-minded persons leaving others underappreciated and untapped. And leaders who spend all their time “consulting and listening” without then moving into action are raising expectations and leaving the organization without the satisfying experience of making a difference.
I love to visit. And my visits are not merely social, I am listening also to hear what assets people bring to the mission of the church. I am particularly interested in people who have very different assets than me. But I know that these assets will becoming frustrated by endless consultations and focus groups that go nowhere. People need to see the product, they need to see that their input led to something. Finally, what the leader needs to do then is assure the persons who have leaned into the mission that while things may not have gone 100% the way they wanted the fact that our group accessed most of our people and utilized most of our assets is a much better outcome than a few people doing all of the work on their particular agenda. Good leaders get the most out of their community, recruit the most people, utilize the most assets and express the most comprehensive mission. That’s what I call strong leadership.