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century.1 This crisis has not only been found outside the church, but inside as well. There simply are not enough good leaders to face the task confronting us in our rapidly changing global environment. Burns (the pioneer of the Transformational Leadership model) attributes the desperate situation in our organizational life to an intellectual crisis in leadership thought. According to Burns. “We fail to grasp the essence of leadership that is relevant to our modern age and hence we cannot agree even on the standards by which to measure, recruit, and reject it.”2 I however would suggest that the problem is more systemic than intellectual. While Burns’ call, for a contemporary philosophical tradition, may help us select the right people to lead, it does not necessarily get at the fundamental cause of the crisis. I would suggest, that underlying the intellectual crisis is a collapse of historic models of leadership, which are based on flawed ontological assumptions that do not conform to the real world. As observed by Regine and Lewin in their article “Leading at the Edge,” Where once the world was viewed as linear and mechanistic, where simple cause and effect solutions were expected to explain the complex phenomena of nature, Scientists now realize that most of the world is non-linear and organic, characterized by uncertainty and unpredictability. In retrospect, it is amazing how far we have been able to take the linear model for understanding the world both in science and business.3 What is needed in our churches today, is a new model for leadership that will transcend the limitations of historic models and meet the challenge of the post-modern era. To meet this task, I
Wren, 3-10 Wren, 9 3 Regine, 6
would propose a transformational model of leadership, which is informed by the scriptures and insights from complexity science. In this paper I will be using McCloskey’s 4-R Model of leadership as a framework for my study.
The Failure of Classical Models
Before we turn to McCloskey’s model, let us examine why classic leadership models are failing. According Angelique Keene, “The dominant organizational paradigm remains wedded to scientific management theories which reflect a philosophy that remains committed to a need for control and prediction.”4 Control and prediction however, assume a very linear and mechanistic concept of the world, where simple cause-and-effect solutions are expected to describe natural processes – but in actuality cannot. Scientists are now beginning to realize that most of the world is nonlinear and organic, characterized by uncertainty and unpredictability.5 Informing the revolution in scientific inquiry is Complexity Theory, a new science, which studies the relational phenomena of chaos and emergence in dynamic systems. Chaos, generally speaking, describes the unpredictable nature of complex systems (like weather patterns, the stock market, etc.). Emergence on the other hand, describes the phenomena of how complex patterns “emerge” (in a seemingly spontaneous way) out of relatively simple systems under certain conditions. Regine and Lewin, note several Myths6 surrounding the concept of leadership which grow out of the linear/mechanistic world view: The myths of Autonomy, Control, and Omniscience. Much of the failure of historic models of leadership can be attributed to instances where one acts on these presuppositions, and fails to achieve the desired results, or where one expects outcomes based on these assumptions which are unrealistic.
Keene, Angelique, “Complexity Theory: The Changing Role of Leadership” Industrial and Commercial Training Vol. 32, Number 1 • 2000 © iMCB University Press • p. 15 5 Regine, p 6 6 Regine, 17-19
The Myth of Autonomy Ellis and Fisher (1994) observe - that groups tend to perform best as the complexity of a task increases, and that groups are better at judgment than individuals are.7 This is not to say that “groups” become necessary as complexity increases. Human relationships are mutual by nature, our identities are formed in relationship to others, and our actions are nearly always reactions to the myriad of other individuals who influence us. This insight reveals the inadequacy of classical leadership models. As John Donne famously said, “No man is an Island.” Consequently, one would expect to find evidence of a different model in the New Testament, in fact we do. In Trinitarian theology, the doctrine of parichoresis describes the interpenetration of the members of the Trinity. Through the process of redemption, this interpenetration is extended to us as we are found in Christ. The Christian Community is to be understood then, as a series of interpenetrating relationships. This is reflected in Jesus prayer, “even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me” (John 17:21). In the New Testament, you see a growing tendency toward mutuality in community life and the decision making process. There are several instances where the church makes decisions collectively. In Acts 1:15-26 for instance, the Apostles are choosing a successor to Judas, they allow the body to put forward a suggestion. Unable to come to a resolution, rather than making the final decision, they decide to cast lots. The decision to choose this procedure is significant because it could reflect the fact that the disciples did not feel they were in a position to make the final decision where the body had not reached consensus. The epistles are not addressed to leaders but to the congregations as a whole. When the first deacons are selected in Acts 6, the whole church chooses them. The whole church also settled the dispute over circumcision in Acts 15:22. The
Apostles occasionally made unilateral decisions when they had to, but as Erickson notes, We find no instance of control over a local church by outside organizations or individuals. The apostles made recommendations and gave advice, but exercised no real rulership or control.8 The study of Complexity reveals that we are all in dynamic reaction with our environment and are very much a part of the process that creates that environment. We do not exist in isolation but we exist and have our being in a web of relationships.9 The old model of leadership is inadequate, because it operates on linear and unidirectional assumption about the flow of influence. The complex nature of human interaction demands a model that recognizes the mutuality and interconnectedness of human relationship. The Myth of Control John Gardner states that “Leaders are almost never as much in charge as they are pictured to be, and followers almost never as submissive as one might imagine.”10 Human organizations are complex systems, as such, they are not subject to direct control. Keene notes, We tend to see our organizations and us as members of those organizations, as separate from our environment. We seek to control that environment and experience frustration when it behaves in a way that is incongruent and in conflict with the operations of our organizations. 11 In the end, leaders cannot lead where followers will not be led. Classic forms of leadership, with a direct control methodology, must therefore resort to coercive means to force cooperation. This tactic, while effective in some instances, cannot guarantee cooperation and points to the ultimate futility of direct control. The world simply does not work that way. In the gospels we see Jesus, the ultimate authority, unable or unwilling to command compliance. When people go away disappointed like the rich young ruler (Mt 19:22), or overwhelmed by it, like the crowd who left him (Jn 6:60); he does not try harder. He simply lets
Keene, p 16 Wren, 185 (from John W. Gardner, “Leaders and Followers,” Liberal Education 23 (2) (March-April, 1987).
Keene, p 16
go. If the Word, who created all things did not seek to directly control people, why should we expect to. True authority commands, but it does not coerce. Leadership is not about getting people to do what you want, or getting them to do other than what they would normally do. To quote Burn’s, The leader’s fundamental act is to induce people to be aware or conscious of what they feel – to feel their true needs so strongly, to define their values so meaningfully, that they can move to purposeful action.12 While the old model of leadership operates on the assumption of direct control, complexity demands a new leadership that understands that the most we can hope for is indirect control.
The Myth of Omniscience
“It is impossible for leaders to have and know all the answers.”13 This myth is closely related to the myth of autonomy. One reason noted by Abelson and Levi (1985) is that, individuals are limited to their intellectual and information-processing capabilities. The limitations of a group are much less in this manner for they are able to draw from a more extensive collective pool of information and talent.14 The founder of Systems Service Enterprises, Susan S. Elliott states, “I can’t come up with a plan and then ask those who manage the accounts to give me their reactions. They’re the ones who really know the accounts. They have the information I don’t have. Without their input, I’d be operating in an ivory tower.”15 In first Corinthians 13 we see that the church has been given a variety of gifts, but not all gifts have been given to everyone, yet all the gifts are needed for the healthy functioning of the body. A second reason is that human organizations exist on two levels, the micro-level of our day to day lives, and the macro, level of cities, nations, businesses and the Church. In the New Testament we find that the church is never given a big picture or grand strategy. They are given basic instructions (the Great Commission Mt. 28:19-20). The great Apostle Paul, is not given one
Burns, James MacGregor. 1878. Leadership. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers. Regine, 19 14 Irving, 234-235 15 Wren (Ways Women Lead). (153)
either. He is told simply, to take the Gospel to the gentiles and their kings (Acts 9:15-16). In his book, Emergence, Steven Johnson compares the relative scales of humans and ants to their relative communities. The decision-making of an ant, exists on a minute-by-minute scale: counting foragers, following pheromone gradients. The sum of all those isolated decisions creates the far longer lifetime of the colony, but the ants themselves are utterly ignorant of that macro-level. Human behavior works at two comparable scales: our day-to-day survival, which involves assessments of the next thirty years or forty years at best; and the millennial scale of cities and other economic ecosystems. – We interact directly with, take account of – and would seem to control – the former. We are woefully unaware of the latter. – That macro-development belongs to the organism of the city itself, which grows and evolves and learns over a thousand-year cycle, as dozens of human generations come and go.16 Historic models of leadership relied on the wisdom of the individual or the elite, in place of this; complexity theory would replace this with the collective intelligence of the body. Historic models of leadership, which attempt to practice direct control, and rely on the autonomy and knowledge of the leader, while functional in relatively stable environments (characterized by the isolation individual agents, and low vertical and horizontal communication within organizational structures,) only work because the system is essentially “unhealthy”. With increased connectivity between agents and greater communication of relevant information vertically and horizontally within the system, direct control does not work as well. Simply speaking, the empowerment of local agents decreases the manageability of social networks. Miroslav Volf writes, People in modern societies - have little sympathy for top-down organizations, including for churches structured top-down. The search of contemporary human beings for community is a search for those particular forms of socialization in which they themselves are taken seriously with their various religious and social needs, in which their personal engagement is valued, and in which they can participate formatively.17
Empowered agents demand more direct input into systems in which they participate. Leadership is then confronted with a choice; either dis-empower agents through repression and coercion, or adopt a non-linear approach to organizational life.
By making relationships central to his model McCloskey transcends mechanistic models by asserting that leadership is first and foremost contextual. He states “It is theologically inaccurate and conceptually inadequate to suggest that a sole person, in any way, shape or form exists or functions in a state of splendid isolation, especially in the arena of leadership practice.”18 This does not mean that leadership traits become unimportant. McCloskey’s anagram “D.I.C.E.” delineates the attributes he considers essential to leadership.19 Yet ontologically, we are beginning to realize that traits are not so much a matter of differing substances, but rather a matter of differing relations. Drawing on the insights of developmental psychology, Alistair McFadyen, describes how our sense of identity and personhood is formed by our individual history of communication; this makes our encounters with others, including God significant in shaping who we are.20 In this context it makes sense that McCloskey would put the Divine Human Partnership at the center of his model. If our relationships define us, spiritual leadership must begin within the context of spiritual relationships, and all Spiritual relationships find their common entry point in the divine human relationship. New relational contexts often elicit latent character traits to emerge in individuals. Theologically, for instance, it possible to say that God is Love. God always was love. Within the relational context of his Trinitarian nature, God always existed as a community of loving self-
18 19 20
McCloskey, 2-3 McClosley, 4
McFadyen, A. The Call to Personhood, (Cambridge University Press, 1990) p. 115-116
donation.21 However, one cannot say God has always been just – as a part of his eternal nature. Justice is a latent character trait that emerged from God in response to human sin, as well as mercy. When human beings enter into a relationship with the divine, latent qualities emerge. These qualities are called spiritual gifts. They are latent because they have something to do with who we are as individuals, they are gifts because they can only be accessed through a personal relationship to the divine. McCloskey's acronym D.I.C.E., refers to those characteristics which he determines to be essential to leadership. The two main features of emergence are reflected in these traits. Dynamic Determination and Intellectual Flexibility correspond to the quality of adaptability; Characterological Soundness and Emotional Wellbeing correspond to the quality of Relationality. It would make sense that these traits would rise to the surface as leaders evolve and adapt to new and complex environments. Though presenting slightly different taxonomies - other theorists in the study of leadership have recognized these traits, as the chart below clearly demonstrates.
Burns Kirkpatric & Locke22 Dynamic Determination Drive, LeadershipMotivation Colins23 Fierce Resolve Intellectual Flexibility Cognitive Ability, Knowledge of the Business, Flexibility Humility Characterological Soundness Honesty, Integrity Emotional Wellbeing Self Confidence
Complexity theory states that Feedback loops exist in complex adaptive systems, and through their dynamics the system evolves over time.24 Who we are as individuals is not only shaped by our relational context, but also feeds back into the system and contributes to the overall identity of the system. Given the ebb and flow of this mutual relationship, it is easy to see how Burn’s definition
21 22 23
Wren, 133-143 Colins, Jim. Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve. Harvard Business Review (2001). 24 Regine, 13
of Transforming Leadership works. “Transforming leadership is a relationship of mutual stimulation and elevation that converts followers into leaders and may convert leaders into moral agents”.25
According to McCloskey, there are four roles essential for leadership: Spokesperson, Coach, Direction Setter, and Change Agent. McCloskey divides these into four quadrants, which he calls critical corners of the missional community.26
Spokesperson Or Kingdom Ambassador (Evangelist) present/outside
Direction Setter Horizon Setter (?) future/outsider Change Agent Or Trail Blazer (Prophet or Teacher) future/inside
Coach Or Community Builder (Pastor) present/inside
Currently, there is a great deal of skepticism between Complexity and Transformational schools of Leadership. Complexity theorists see transformational leadership as another linear/unidirectional, and coercive leadership model. Transformational theorists see Complex Leadership models as abstract, aimless, preoccupied with systems and negligent of human individuals. Most of these misunderstandings however are easily resolved, and could be cleared up by more cross-fertilization of ideas. As we have already seen in the “myths” portion of this study, many of the insights of complexity theory have already found a place in the thought of contemporary “transformational” leadership. And the work of Complexity Theorists is surprisingly human. Take for instance this statement from “Leading at the Edge”,
Wren, 103 McCloskey, 8
One of the most important lessons of complexity science is that complex adaptive systems generate emergent, creative order and adapt to changes in their environment, through simple interactions among their agents. In other words, in business, how we interact and the kind of relationships we form have everything to do with what kind of culture emerges; with the emergence of creativity, productivity, and innovation in the workplace; with the organizations ability to anticipate and adapt to changes. In turn, the emergent order influences the behavior of individuals in the system – a feedback loop. Similarly, the culture that emerges in a company will influence people’s behavior. From this continual interplay between people’s behavior and the emergent culture flows a dynamic feedback loop that can enable or disable greater adaptability.27 Leaders who chose complex models of leadership actually focus more on individuals and relationships than traditional models of leadership because they believe that the greatest possibility for success lies not in the planning, but in the overall health of the organization, which is actually an organism on the macro-level. The biblical imagery of the Church as the body of Christ, may have particular significance for us today (1 Cor 12:12-26). No one claims to be the head of the church, this role is reserved for Christ (Col. 1:16). Some people are particularly gifted, by the spirit, with the abilities as Spokespersons (evangelists), Coach (pastor), or Change Agent (prophets and teachers), but we must all submit to God, who is the Direction Setter. The flaw of classical leadership model is to assume that the leader is the head. And that the leader has the requisite intelligence to make definite decisions at the macro-level for the organization. As the study by Ellis and Fisher indicates, this would make organizations under classic leadership models, collectively stupid organisms, which rapidly die out, as the cannot adapt to their environment. This is currently a struggle taking place in the institutional church as it wrestles for relevance in the contemporary culture.
According to McCloskey, Responsibilities are a sequence of specific leadership oriented actions or behaviors, they comprise what a leader does.28 They are, Vision Casting, Strategy Formulating, Aligning, and Motivating. Just as in McCloskey’s 3rd R, “Roles,” these responsibilities can be divided into two categories. Future oriented (Vision Casting, and Strategy Formulating,) and present oriented (Aligning and Motivating). The analysis, from the standpoint of complexity, is also similar. The present oriented activities are very relationally oriented, and from a complexity theorist’s point of view, contribute to the health of the organization by enhancing relationships. The problematic responsibilities are the future oriented ones. As complexity theory sees the macro-level of organizational life beyond the cognitive awareness of individual agents, it is beyond the control of individual agents. It can only be influenced indirectly by the local decisions of each member of the body as it takes on character over time. This is not to preclude our making predictions and setting direction, but it demystifies the concept of Vision Casting, and humbles the art of Strategy Formulation. Keeping leaders grounded to the realities of community life rather than wedded to utopian fantasies. We have seen earlier how the New Testament does not provide a master plan, but rather, gives individuals a mission (basic instructions) to guide it. How that mission unfolds over time is a result of human and divine interaction evolving in response to contextual circumstances.
According to McCloskey, results are contextual. They exist within the communities purpose, mission, vision and values. Contextual Results are measured both quantitatively and qualitatively. We have already anticipated much of what complexity theory has to say about results in the preceding sections of this study. Still more can be said. For many years churches have focused on numbers as a means of measuring organizational health. Reaction to this standard has given rise, amongst those who see it as superficial, to others, which chose to measure success by faithfulness, obedience, or some other qualitative measure. Both have their arguments and nobody is really in the position to say that the other is wrong. In this way McCloskey has correctly identified the contextual nature of Results. This is probably the conclusion of Complexity theorists find most difficult to accept from those still thinking within the classical leadership framework. It is also the arena where Transformational Leadership theory most differs from Complex Leadership theory. When considering Results, complexity theorists would caution, for the aforementioned reasons, that we do not have the ability to ensure particular outcomes, and we do not have the intelligence to perceive what is best for an organization on the macro-level. The only thing we have to work with is local knowledge, human interaction, the recognition of group dynamics, and indirect control over individuals and over the organization as a whole. Christians have the advantage of hope here over other human institutions, because the church is the only institution with any sort of head that truly has the ability to guide a body of organized human beings with true wisdom. It is Christ Jesus who is the Vision Caster and the Direction Setter for the church. The members of his body are those who trust that he will lead them into a promising future by his Knowledge and Wisdom. Leaders in the church, therefore, are those who have the ability to manifest and communicate God’s vision for
the community. They do not cast their own vision, but catch the divine vision of the eschatological future, and be become infected by it, and then spread it to others. They participate in strategizing, in Divine/Human partnership with other believers to formulate strategies that guide their actions. But, their planning is never absolute, but must always be contingent.
Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “if it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that" (Jas. 4:13-15).
Leaders are beginning to discover in the fast changing, interconnected world, that classical models based on flawed ontological assumptions do not correspond to what we are discovering about the way the world actually works. In the past the relative stability of our social environments allowed us to utilize these approaches with an acceptable level of success. The mistaken assumptions only begin to become apparent as we become more connected and better-informed individuals. As we move into the future we must let go of certainty and acknowledge that we are moving into an open future. We must recognize the subordinate and contingent nature of our smaller visions and strategies – to the ultimate Vision of God. Success can be measured both quantitatively and qualitatively, but must never be bounded by human expectations of what success should look like. A healthy church will grow, who will compose its members is not for us to decide. A healthy church will be faithful, but it cannot predict the context it will be called to express that faith in.
Bibliography Collins, Jim. (2001). “Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve.” Harvard Business Review (January) 66-76 Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology, 2nd edition. Grand Rapids: Baker 1998 Ford, Leighton. Transforming Leadership. Downers Grove: Inter Varsity, 1992 Irving, Justin A. “The Benefits, Challenges, and Practice of Team Leadership in the Global Context.” In James G. Coe, Strategies for Effective Leadership: U.S. and Russian Perspective (pp. 227-246). Johnson, Steven. Emergence. New York: Scribner, 2001 Keene, Angelique. “Complexity Theory: The Changing Role of Leadership”. Industrial and Comercial Training Vol. 32. No. 1. MCB University Press. pp 15-18 McCloskey, Mark. “Toward a Working Model of Transformational Leadership” (unpublished). Regine, Birute and Roger Lewin. “Leading at the Edge: How Leaders Influence Complex Systems.” Emergence, Vol.2, Iss. 2. (2000) pp 5-23 Volf, Miroslav. After Our Likeness. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998 Wren, J. Thomas (ed.). The Leader’s Companion: Insights on Leadership through the Ages. New York: Free Press, 1995. Works Cited From Wren Gardner, John W. The Cry for Leadership, pp 3 ff Burns, James MacGregor. The Crisis of Leadership, pp 8 ff Couto, Richard A. The Transformation of Transforming Leadership, pp 102 ff Rosner, Judy B. Ways Women Lead, pp 149 ff Gardner, John W. Leaders and Followers, pp 185 ff
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