Leadership in a Culture of Cowardice (part seventeen)

We’re indebted to Edwin Friedman’s remarkably insightful examination of leadership in Failure of Nerve, for this fifth leadership essential: You can’t push on a rope: the unmotivated are invulnerable to insight.

31 honoluluSeveral years ago I was in Honolulu, in training with a catalytic character development ministry. I’d been “an apprentice” for what seemed like an eternity. It was late at night, and Dan, my trainer walked with me. I was feeling defeated… confused… perplexed. I’d been given the opportunity to facilitate a number of crucial conversations with seminar participants, and they hadn’t gone well. I clearly had missed it, and I didn’t know why.

I recount it in the hope that it will change yours as well. He said: “Kirk, you keep handing people fish!” “We are not here to give people fish. We are not here to teach people how to fish. We are here to provoke their hunger.”

31 fishWhen a man is hungry enough, he will feed himself. If fish is the way, he will teach himself to fish, find someone to show him how, or find a way to get fish out of the lake and onto his family’s dinner plate. In study after study in Western Europe, welfare recipients did not find jobs until after the government’s assistance ran out. Then, almost immediately they found work.

What Dan said to me next has changed my life.Hungry enough, they were no longer unmotivated. Motivated, they were vulnerable to insight.

They discovered.

They learned.

They changed.

They took risks.

They found work. And, they kept on working in the jobs they got. They fed themselves and their families. Starvation did not skyrocket. Neither, according to what I’ve read, did crime. The unmotivated are invulnerable to insight.

What might occur if you got great at provoking your parishioners’ hunger for God’s Word?

What if, this coming year, you devoted yourself to provoking their hunger for maturity?

What if your parish became a more uncomfortable place to remain spiritually and emotionally immature? You might get to reinvent yourself in the process. Trusting Jesus in ways you haven’t in a long time, you could trade familiar patterns and skills for fresh, provocative, people-changing ones.

Why wouldn’t you?

Tick, tock…