Leadership and the Yankees

It’s easy for us to think about either the very good or very bad of particular leaders. The truth is that all leaders have a bit of both in them. The goal is for the good to increase and the bad to decrease. Unfortunately, sometimes the bad directly counteracts the good. This appears to be the case in the life of George Steinbrenner.

In this past week’s episode of Only A Game, the host Bill Littlefield interviewed Peter Golenbock, the author of George: The Poor Little Rich Boy Who Build the Yankee Empire. Golenbock points out that the Yankees had their best years following times when Steinbrenner was suspended from his duties as Yankee owner. During these times, the capable people that he hired were able to work their plan without intereference.  The Reggie Jackson years of the 1970’s followed a Steinbrenner suspension or else Jackson may have been traded sooner. A similar course of evenst happened in the 90’s. Steinbrenner has always been suspicious of prospects and has often pressured general managers to trade prospects before they hit the big leauges. In this case, a suspended Steinbrenner was unable to pressure the general manager to trade s star shortstop. Today, Derek Jeter is a nine-time All-Star with four World Series rings.

So, what do we learn from this? First, Steinbrenner hired capable decision makers and managers. Second, Stenbrenner resourced those decision makers to succed. Third, quite unfortunately, Steinbrenner involved himself far too often in the decision making process. With this poor practice of micromanagement, Steinbrenner directly negated his own good leadership qualities.

It’s another tale to illustrate a basic leadership prinicple: Hire good people. Give them what they need to succeed. Leave them alone!


Missional Leadership

According to Alan Roxburgh, every congregation holds a missional vision (Allelon.org podcast,“Church Transformation”). Lying deep within every group of Christians is a call to relate to the broader community in redemptive ways. Two factors lie at the base of this understanding. First, God is sovereign and places his called people purposefully. Second, the Holy Spirit continues to be active in the lives of believers, even when there appears to be little life among them. The missional leader, then, “cultivate[s] an environment that releases the missional imagination of the people of God” (Missional Leader 21).

In the world of the corporate church, big personalities and programs overshadowed the organic movement of vision within the people of God (“Church Transformation”). Will Mancini says that each church has a unique role to play in the mission of God. The imposition of outside programs and borrowed strategies neglects this uniqueness (Church Unique 9). Therefore, the missional leader extracts missional qualities of a particular church rather than imposing the latest program.
One of the more helpful paradigms used by Mancini illustrates how a missional community finds its unique vision. The “Kingdom Concept” defines how the church will affect the community for the mission of God. The Kingdom Concept is found is the confluence of three elements of the church. The “local predicament” describes the location of the church and the specific issues of the surrounding community. The “collective potential” includes all resources available to the church. The “apostolic esprit” describes the ideas that energize leadership. Where these three meet, the local church finds its kingdom concept (85). The missional leader guides this discernment process.

While a primary missional leader may guide the process, in missional communities, missional leadership teams share the vision and move the vision forward. R. Paul Stevens laments in The Other Six Days that the call of God to all believers has been narrowed to such a degree in Christendom that only ecclesiastical calls are recognized (155). God calls all Christians to perform functions for the mission of God. In Christendom, unfortunately, those functions became identified with clerical offices (146). This led to a sharp distinction between laity and clergy. Missional communities lessen this distinction between laity and clergy greatly, involving a wide range of people in the leadership of the church.

True community and discipleship are key ingredients to a missional leadership team, which should embody the greatest hopes of the missional congregation (Rouse and Van Gelder, A Fielduide to the Missional Congregation 86). If the broader church is to be a sign of the coming Reign of God, then the leadership team should model this as well. Through true community and personal discipleship, missional leadership teams create a healthy climate where the Holy Spirit can lead the church (91).

The missional church’s relationship with denominational structure ebbs and flows. The primary concern of the missional movement appears to be that denominational structure would be applied to local congregations and thwart the organic movement of the Holy Spirit (Shaping of Things to Come 21). Hirsch provides a more helpful paradigm in The Forgotten Ways. He describes “networked structures” which enable and expand ministry while being agile enough to change directions quickly (196). These networked structures allow organic movement to shape direction. Cole’s image of the exoskeleton is instructive here as well (Organic Church 125).

Undergirding the entire conversation about missional leadership is an understanding that the Holy Spirit is a work within the people of God. Craig Van Gelder notes that the massive changes in societal attitude toward the church could be evidence of God’s movement (The Ministry of the Missional Church 48). Even in times of change and disruption, missional leadership trusts the movement of the Holy Spirit and asks “What is God doing?” and “What does God want to do?” (58, 60).

Extreme Sports & Leaders

Extreme Swing“What’s the fastest you’ve ever driven?”

“Have you ever been skydiving?”

“How many times have you bungee jumped?”

These are not questions that we tend to ask potential leaders in the church, but a recent study*** shows that sensation seekers may have a great inclination to lead in significant ways.

The study included nearly 1100 extreme sports participants, asking about their civic involvement and their desire to lead. There were some very significant findings. While the participants did not seem to be more involved in civic organizations than any other broad base of people, they did report a preference to lead. “Higher sensation seeking was also significantly related to a desire and preference to lead an organization that will act as a change agent in society.” This was true for both male and female respondents.

If there is to be movement and innovation in the church, the leaders must be willing to take risks. We could choose to not think about leadership as a risk taking venture, and in fact, we could lead without taking risks. However, the kind of leadership that does not risk most likely does not have reward for the individual or for the gospel of Jesus Christ. We take precautions, but we know that movements are made when leaders are thrilled when daring to go beyond our current situation.

It sounds like the Book of Acts was full of sensation seeking leaders.

***  Wymer, Walter, Donald Self, and Carolyn Sara (Casey) Findley. “Sensation Seekers and Civic Participation: Exploring the Influence of Sensation Seeking and Gender on Intention to Lead and Volunteer.” International Journal of Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Marketing 13.4 (2008): 287-300. 

Open Source Mission

Over the past decade, there has been a movement in understanding leadership within the church. We used to consider the strong, dynamic, and visionary leader to be best. That is, the leader would bring in a goal or dream and lead the church in that direction. Of course, this style of leadership and organizational management is fraught with problems. Why would only one person be able to discern the way forward? What happens if that person moves on? What, then, do we do about the Holy Spirit’s movement within the lives of others? Is the leader the only one who truly counts?

The good news is that this understanding is being transformed. The movement is toward a more grass roots understanding of mission. Alan Roxburgh, and others, say that every congregation has the ability to shape the mission of the church. He says that the leader is the cultivator and organizer of the vision that rises from the people. (For a detailed look, check out Missional Leader.)

In other words, the church is moving toward “open source mission.” In the world of technology, open source products have been given boundaries and some shape. However, the creators have kept the program open so that anyone with knowledge can adjust, correct, or add specific focus. Couldn’t this be exactly how the mission of the church is developed. If we trust that every believer is filled with the Holy Spirit and trust the Spirit’s movement, then we can allow the mission of the church to be “written on” by anyone who is in community with the church.

The emergent movement has done some work on open source theology. Part of the focus includes ecclesiology. Perhaps this is where the emergent and missional movements can share creativity and pool thoughts. open source theology and open source mission. They go hand in hand.

Let me go back to something that is hinted at above. I do beleive that it is important for there to be historical boundaries and biblical frameworks in place for any of this open source work. Yet, we can trust the Holy Spirit to guide the process, even as the early church did in the time of the Jerusalem Council and the open source mission of Paul.

So, let’s begin writing onto the mission of God.

UPDATE: The folks at GospelTranslations.org have already been at work on open source mission from the translation point of view. Their ministry is in making the gospel available throughout the world. Right now. Check them out.

Tribes – Seth Godin

Here are a couple of thoughts from Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, a recently published book on leadership of movements.

Seth Godin says that a tribe is a crowd with a leader, a way to communication, and a shared interest. His use of the term is really quite seditious.  He encourages leaders to step out and lead.  He has a particularly bad view of organizations (or factories) as stilted, dead, and impersonal.  He has no use for organizations.  What does this say to the church?  If we believe that the Church has been given the Holy Spirit and has worth, how do we measure the importance of a movement versus the pain that it may inflict upon the broader Church (the broader organization).

He often calls the leader of tribes “heretics” because they go against the normal understanding of business organization.  He suggests that they might even be treated as heretics, but this ends up being good in 2009 because heretics are no longer burned, they are celebrated.  In a quickly changing world, the heretic who has the courage to stand and deliver on something new and innovative is the hero.  How does his understanding of “heretic” interact with the church’s understanding of “heretic”?  When he says, “Heretics must believe,” (p. 46), what does he mean?  How does this statement inform Apostolic innovation?

This is one of my favorite quotes:  “Religion at its worst reinforces the status quo, often at the expense of our faith.” While Godin certainly does not approach the task of leadership from a noticeably Christian perspective, much of what he says strikes at the heart of how the church is organized and responds to Apostolic creativity.

Tribes is an interesting read that seems to point to the next step in the changing world of leadership.

Leadership Analysis

In preparation for our next class (Leadership), my small group will be working together on a project.  The project is to analyze an example of good leadership and an example of bad leadership.  It’s an interesting exercise really.  Leaders make so many choices about direction, relationships, programs, etc.  Putting together a life’s worth of good choices in those areas is quite an accomplishment.  On the other hand, one poor choice can taint an entire legacy.

So, I want to ask you to participate.  Who is an example of good leadership?  Who is an example of bad leadership?  We’re open for suggestion.

By the way, I’ve got a great small group.  We pray together, read Scripture together, argue with one another, enjoy great conversation over coffee and muffins.  The members are Barb Yorks, Claude Solano, Mike Hoppe, and Steve Gober.