Dec 15, 1999
A year ago my wife took a leave from teaching middle school to enter a graduate program in school administration. I soon noticed that she and her colleagues were being assigned lots of reading on the topic of leadership, especially on the role of a leader in times of institutional change. A fair amount of this material was literature to which I also had paid attention over the years, including the work of such scholars as James MacGregor Burns, Ronald Heifetz and Margaret Wheatley.
Among my friends and acquaintances, the recent made-for-television movie Mary generated little interest. Perhaps that is because I spend too much time with Protestants for whom any display of interest in Mary continues to be slightly suspect. Or perhaps we flipped channels, remembering too well the recent adaptation of the Noah story, with its interpolation of Sodom and Gomorrah into the opening sequence--which appears to have been inspired by the battle scenes in Braveheart.
In Ephesus, Timothy walked into a congregational mess with the mandate to straighten it out. He inherited both the legacy (left by Paul) and the problems for which others (among whom were Hymanaeus and Alexander) were responsible. Like the tohu wabohu of Genesis 1:2, pastoral vocation doesn't begin with a clean slate.
Among the congregations I know, two challenges loom especially large for leaders: maintaining a clear focus amid competing agendas, and bringing about needed change when people are resistant or at best ambivalent about change. With that context in mind, here are ten rules of leadership, more or less in the order in which I learned them.
Dogma (1999), directed by Kevin Smith
Director Kevin Smith's 1997 film Chasing Amy focuses on people in their early to mid-20s who are at a crossroads between adolescent sexual experimentation and the possibility of mature relationships. He shrewdly notes these characters' hip mannerisms and Gen-X obsession with mass culture.
"We would like to have you speak in your own voice about what you believe as a Jew or Christian," wrote the editors inviting me to contribute to a volume in which Jews and Christians were to engage each other's traditions. I accepted the invitation, but the more I thought about "in your own voice," the more ambivalent I felt about it. I knew, of course, what the editors meant. I should not write as if I were not involved, as if I did not identify with my tradition.