Cover Article Rev Magazine Kaleidoscopic Leadership
Kaleidoscopic Leadership Kaliedoscopic Leadership
| volume 4 | issue 4
[ka•lei•do•scope: Gr. kalos, beautiful + eidos, form—anything that constantly changes as in color and pattern.]
Are you constantly creating a place of discovery and belonging?
Several years ago I remember reading for the first time what’s now a well-known definition of leadership by Max DePree, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” I was soon asking myself what proved to be painfully hard questions: “As a leader, what kind of reality do I help define? What about for our lead team? our board? our core of unpaid servants?” These were painful questions because the discovery didn’t provoke much celebration, and they’re hard questions because defining, creating, and architecting reality is no easy task.
Initially I had a soaring confidence about this issue. My ’90s “conference junkie” mindset convinced me there must be some program, clergy update tape club, or defining moment I needed to have to get this figured out. Over time, however, I concluded I had no idea how to do this or what my desired outcome would be.
In the ensuing years, I’ve come to a major ah-ha. While the point leader is usually the primary creative communicator, the team catalyst, and even possibly the chief brain-juice hydrant, we must be much, much more. We must be ambience architects, sculptors of organizational culture, gardeners of organic life.
As leaders we must germinate and catalyze the dance of colorful pieces in the kaleidoscope we call church ethos. Ethos is the tangible yet invisible “space-feel” that you immediately experience every time you walk into a church. Ethos is what’s found to be compelling and inviting or cool and repelling to those who walk through the doorway. What space-feel are we designing? What kind of environment are we creating where the dance of others’ gifts, God’s Spirit, the mess of new birth, and the depth of encountering God can all come together in a kaleidoscope of color?
Our postmodern world is screaming for a real-life experience of transformation, an encounter with the divine, and something to satiate its ferocious appetite for community. We live in a new day. We all sense it. We read about it and we even conference on it. But the question remains: Will we as church leaders spawn life within the organismic ethos of church—life so compelling that people simply can’t stay away?
To use Eugene Peterson’s translation from The Message, Will we present to the lost among us a “more and better life than they ever dreamed of” (John 10:10)?
As I began wrestling with these issues, I realized I was ill-prepared and untrained to ride this transitional cusp of his–tory. There were certain dispositions, certain mirrors in my personal kaleidoscope that needed to be present and rightly placed if I was going to lead our teams into a healthy ethos. Being a bit slow on the uptake at times, this stands as one of the most critical insights for me about leadership and its connection to ethos. The condition, vitality, health, and move–ment in a local church can’t be understood apart from the condition, vitality, health, and movement of its leaders. Are there exceptions? Sure. But this fundamental and profound truth still remains. In my life and in the life of all leaders, their spiritual dynamic, clarity of vision, and level of expectancy usually play out in a near one-to-one cor–re–spond–ence in the teams we serve and then into the larger group of the church as a whole. Interestingly, over the last six to eight years this insight has risen to the forefront of secular literature on leadership.
In a traditional kaleidoscope, three small mirrors provide the surface where small pieces of different colored glass or plastic dance. Three mirrors also need to be present in our leadership life if we hope to provide an ethos where the compelling dance of color can occur.
Mirror #1: Interior Space Leadership
The exterior space around us is directly contoured and shaped by the condition of our interior space. When we think of leading, rarely does personal self-leadership come flooding into our minds. We almost always think about leading people who we consider subordinates or followers. Dee Hock, founder of Visa International, stated in “The Art of Chaordic Leadership” (Leader to Leader) that as key leaders we should be spending no less than 50 percent of our time on personal self-leadership issues.
I don’t need to look very far in my history to note that when my local church—Westwinds—struggled, it was often because I was struggling. When I was going through some growing up on the inside, Westwinds was directly affected. When I experienced a quantum surge and God grew me, most often our teams as a whole felt it. This simple truth rocked my world: What happens in us as leaders will eventually contour and animate what happens around us. What’s going on inside us will ultimately leak out to those around us. This is why you and I can’t be shy about focusing on the interior space mirror.
What kind of things are interior space leadership issues? In an article that was the most requested Harvard Business Review article in 1999, Daniel Goleman says that as important as technical job know-how and IQ are in a leader’s performance, what he calls emotional intelligence is more than two times more important in leaders at all levels of an organization. He says its importance increases as a leader’s responsibilities rise. Emotional intelligence is interior space leadership stuff.
Self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, social skill—this is the stuff of deep maturity and character development. How much have you wrestled with these issues in your own personal leadership development? How much time have you spent exploring, developing, and honing these kinds of emotional intelligence skills?
And this is just the beginning. What about learning to build on islands of health and strength—a rather counter–intuitive approach, but one that all great leaders are aware of? What about really being mentored in terms of gift development—and what that means to your internal self-perceptions about how God’s made you and who he wants you to become?
This personal mirror will help shape a church ethos of life development and health hunger. Few things are more compelling than watching authentic growth and maturity evolve in others. Every time I see someone go deeper, deal with some emotional growing up, or take a character issue to the next level, I get inspired. When a group of leaders get the mirror of interior space leadership in place, powerful stuff slowly leaks into the ethos of the church. People will observe imperfect but growing leaders and will long for the same in their lives. The interior space leadership mirror animates a life development and health hunger ethos in the church.
Mirror #2: Relentless Curiosity
Every great leader I’ve observed or read about has an unyielding curiosity. I’m personally convinced this has to fuel lifelong learning. Those ’90s conferences we attended did tell us we needed to be lifelong learners, that leaders are learners, that leaders are readers. No doubt true! But what fuels lifelong learning?
Without curiosity informing our questions, piquing our interest, or pondering the “what-ifs,” lifelong learning may be nothing but an excuse for evidence gathering to justify and calcify the status quo. Information influx isn’t a transformation experience.
Several areas of curiosity should be the constant companions of leaders.
1. Curiosity about spiritual formation
* What’s God doing in my spirit and what’s he going to do next?
* How’s God going to keep soul-silt to a minimum in my spirit, and what’s my role?
* How’s freshness going to stay continual in my spiritual life, and how do I also facilitate that in the lives of my teammates?
2. Curiosity about areas outside our frame of knowledge
Extraordinary leaders almost universally read, inquire, take classes, and learn from people who are doing things in arenas totally outside their realm of expertise or interest.
* Have you ever thought about reading a book on Leonardo daVinci? He’s considered the greatest genius to date. How about Picasso, Gandhi, or Churchill?
* When was the last time you thought about picking up a piece on bio-technology or the mapping of the genome project and probing what’s going on in the area of cloning and genetic engineering? These topics will have significant implications for cultural penetration and how the gospel may impact decision making.
* Have you ever thought about how colors impact people’s life and environment? What about smells?
A relentless curiosity about random areas outside our frame is one of the things that allow great leaders to make creative connections among things that previously might not have been connected. A mentor challenged this in my life several years ago, and now it’s a bench mark of my life.
3. Curiosity about our culture
* How does postmodern culture impact our ministry paradigms and assumptions right now?
* How are we going to understand and engage the arena of ideas in such a way that we have hearing as a Christian church?
When this second mirror of relentless curiosity takes its place in the life of leaders, a couple of things slowly leak into the ethos of the church. People come to expect that new, creative, and fresh ways of doing things will be sought and expected. The ethos of the church becomes one of permission-–giving innovation. Ideas from the margins are seen as not only acceptable but greatly desired and appreciated. Curiosity yielding lifelong learning in leaders essentially creates an innovative ethos, a culture where “the new thing” (Isaiah 43:19) God may want to do is explored and celebrated. Not only do the kaleidoscopic pieces dance with innovation, but resilience and “risk readiness” also join the dance. In my context, this is an incredible blessing. From our highly unu–sual and artistic facility to the off-the-wall ideas we try in our Encounter and Fusion weekend services, our ethos is that of adaptability and excitement over the new. As the spiritual and cultural tectonic plates continue to shift under our feet, risk, resilience, and innovation become increasingly important. The Apostle Paul is the quintessential pragmatist and innovator when he essentially said: “I will constantly morph maverick methods if that is what it takes to win a few.” (1 Corin–thi–ans 9:19-23).
We’re absolutely convinced that the best ways of reaching the lost, growing deep teenagers, assisting the broken to reach wholeness, and connecting our community to a relationship with Jesus they simply can’t live without, have yet to be designed, sketched, and sculpted. Those only represent a few nuggets of rationale for ambience architects who create cultures of wild permission-giving and risky what-if dream sessions. We need to sculpt space where the most direct route between two points is a spiral because the outcome we’re seeking isn’t determined by the speed of travel.
Mirror #3: Expectation for the Outrageous
Jesus did little in Scripture that was pedestrian or mundane. That isn’t to say that most of what he did was sensational. However, Jesus was full of the unexpected, the arresting, the unanticipated. This is the third mirror of kaleidoscopic leadership. Do we really subscribe to an Ephesians 3:20 expectation, “…who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine”? Do we as leaders genuinely go around with full expectation that the unexpected may break in?
My first sense that this mirror was absent from my kaleidoscopic repertoire was when, in the space of two weeks, God answered with clarity and tremendous power a number of huge requests. I was dumbfounded and totally shocked. I’m ashamed to say the profound lesson to emerge was that my expectation level with God’s activity was near the zero mark. His consistent, unexpected, and outrageous breaking into my life in that two-week period was an essential indictment of my faith level. An obvious question ensues. If my level of expectation was so low, was it any wonder our teams in our church ethos-at-large would also have a low expectation level?
Here are some questions we should think about.
* When was the last time you reflected on your expectation level? How would you rate it?
* When was the last time the church got extravagant with its trust and saw God really do something beyond human ability?
* What can you do to breed an ethos of outrageous expectation?
Our pre-Christian culture is full of people disillusioned with self-designed deities. They’re tired of the manageable, manipulable gods of their making. Many of them are ready for a God-sized God. The question we must ask is, is that the kind of God we’re introducing them to—a God of biblical proportion?
Kaleidoscopic leadership requires the personal mirrors of interior space leadership, relentless curiosity, and an expectation for the outrageous. When these personal mirrors are in place, they slowly yield a church ethos of life development, innovation and risk-taking, and an outrageous expectation that God can and will do anything. If Max DuPree is right—that the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality—I can think of few realities we’d rather see dance in the kaleidoscope.
Ron Martoia is a transformational architect and serves as distance staff for 5 churches throughout the US as well as writes and speaks. He has a book coming out in March of 07 and the sequel in March of 08.
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