The Leadership Jump
Building Partnerships Between Existing and Emerging Christian Leaders
IVP Books, 2009, 205 pp., ISBN 978-0-8308-3364-1
Jimmy Long is a regional director for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and the author of several books and resources. He has served as a long term elder in his church as well as in leadership with InterVarsity for perhaps more than 30 years. As he has become an older leader he has continued to work with younger generations of leaders as the culture and adult generations have changed. While agreeing heartily with the thrust of the book, I often felt compelled to push back. See my comments scattered throughout and at the end.
Chapter 1. The Leadership Dilemma
While the world is reeling from failed leadership we have a shortage of capable leaders and a growing gap between existing and emerging leaders. Too frequently, unable to work together, they part ways. Long insists that older leaders must be willing to give up the stability and predictability of the past and give up control to empower younger leaders. Not likely a smooth transition, this is a redirection. One of my complaints is putting the overwhelming share of the burden on older leaders. Much less is said about younger leaders adjusting, learning, and earning the right to be heard and lead. dlm
Chapter 2. The Church's Dilemma
Question: How do your church leaders need to change to minister and lead in the emerging culture?
We cannot lead from outside the culture. We must lead from within. (24) We have moved from the compartmentalized, organized world of the Berlin Wall to the boundary-free world of the Web. Authority and leadership are moving from hierarchical rules, roles, structures, reason, and plans to a culture of networking, permission giving and empowerment, sometimes observed as chaos, confusion and complexity. The church must move from a "ghetto" or "gated community" to a Kingdom outpost of compassion and agents of change in the community. (26) Leaders must change before others will change. We need leaders like Peter, who recognizing God's hand, moved the church beyond being simply a Jewish cult.
"Older existing leaders should recognize that they must both unlearn old habits and learn new strategies if they are going to be successful leaders in the emerging culture." (32) Emerging leaders must help interpret the culture, receive a sense of history and tradition from older leaders and be patient. (33)
"Some existing leaders fear that the emerging leaders…are selling out to the emerging culture. They are becoming emerging churches absorbed by the culture…." (36)
"We have to…be willing to develop a new understanding of what is going on." "…existing and emerging leaders need each other. We need the maturity, wisdom and order of the existing leaders, and we need the imagination, creativity and chaos of the emerging leaders." (39)
We need new understanding and eventually new models. Instead of forecasting we need foresight, the ability to see what is emerging. (41)
Chapter 3. From Heroic to Post-Heroic Leadership
Heroic leadership is the John Wayne, "follow-me" style, people like Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua and David.
Long suggests that the modern church has emphasized a corporate culture of clear mission, goals and progress. The senior pastor assumes hierarchical authority. This leads to staff members operating independently in silos of ministry. Power and authority are characteristics of the past while character, influence and relational ability are increasing in importance.
The emerging culture does not trust heroic leaders. The leader depends more on collaborative efforts in a team environment. Shared leadership in flatter organizations with more flexibility and room for initiative are required today. The new senior leader must develop a strong leadership team of people with mutual influence who can create and implement ideas to move forward toward a common vision. (53) This is more in line with the early church versus the Old Testament heroes. (54)
Leaders must acknowledge and respect their limitations as well as their gifts. (56) The church can react to the changing culture more effectively as the right people in decentralized forms exercise their agility, flexibility, proactivity and autonomy. (58)
Instead of the charismatic builder, the senior pastor serves as an architect who invites others into the process of building, empowering others to do the ministry. Like mountain climbers, people will not "clip onto a rope" with leaders whose decisions they don't trust. Mountain climbers are teams who pursue a mission or purpose together. Leadership is all about serving the team, facilitating decision processes. The decisions reside in the team. Leading is not "follow me," but serving and empowering others.
Long suggests this was Jesus' style. He didn't demand power but gave it up to serve his disciples. (61) [It is obviously true that Jesus cared for and served his disciples - even unto death. On the other side, Jesus said, "I am the way," "follow me." He also received his authority from his Father and passed it on to his disciples. As far as we know he gave them instructions for going out, rather than having a discussion to get their input on the destination and the journey. These are examples, of course, of hierarchy rather than collaboration.]
Chapter 4. From Guarded to Vulnerable
Older leaders tend to be cautious about sharing information. Long says business leaders project being in charge, having the answers, being calm and having self-assurance. Younger leaders see this as a mask of invincibility that isolates them. By contrast Paul led through his weakness made strong in Christ. Leaders must be vulnerable and admit weaknesses, which gives more freedom for people to be themselves. (68) "The people we lead need to see us for who we are." (79) "Emerging leaders are crying out for an environment where the existing leaders and they can develop trust through vulnerability." (72) Jesus demonstrated this. He came with humility and vulnerability.
"Clearly, demonstrating strengths lends leaders legitimacy--but not if weaknesses are denied." (73, quoting Goffee and Jones). "Vulnerability is a hallmark of leadership in the emerging culture." (74) "Part of...approachability comes from leaders admitting when they have made mistakes and asking for forgiveness." (74) "These relationships, built on integrity, trust and honesty, become more like a covenant." (76)
Vulnerability is developed by spending time together as a team in a variety of venues getting to know one another, sharing our lives and praying for one another. (79)
"Within this climate of suspicion, postmoderns above everything else want to experience authenticity. They are interested not so much in our truth claims as in the extent to which our lives correspond to the truth we proclaim." (81, quoting Eddie Gibbs, Leadership Next) Leaders are valued for their character and example. (82)
Chapter 5. From Positional Authority to Earned Authority
Emerging leaders want their leaders to "earn their trust." They are skeptical toward all types of hierarchical or formal authority. [Or perhaps any authority and may expect more trust-earning from others than from themselves. dlm] "In the emerging culture, the most important quality of a leader is the ability to give up one's power and replace it with compassion." (94) "Emerging leaders reject positional authority in favor of relational authority." (96) "Leadership comes when power is shared rather than authority exerted." (97) "They are looking for leaders who lead more by relational persuasion than by command." Trust is the foundation and it has to be earned. (99) [If this were a young leader speaking, I would perceive it as all one way. "You, my leader, must listen to me, care for me, share your authority with me, persuade me, and do not give me any orders, for goodness sake, for I would certainly reject that." Because the author is in the older leader's position, I recognize that he is simply interpreting the situation as he experiences it. Still, if the topic is building partnership among older and younger leaders, I wonder what is the responsibility for the younger leader to earn trust, learn from experience, accept correction, etc.?]
Chapter 6. From Task to Community
Community is the key ingredient to accomplish the task. In modern culture, we relied on hard data to measure progress toward grandiose goals such as church growth. However changed values and changed practices are some of the "soft stuff" necessary to be the community God desires. Leadership must change from goal-driven to relationship-driven. "We have to make sure we are loving people and not using them, caring for people more than our goals." (107)
The Great Commission has been the rallying cry for evangelism. It is task oriented with an emphasis on 'go.' "For many reasons the rallying cry of the Great Commission has lost some of its luster in this emerging culture." "We just need to emphasize a new rallying cry that has a more relational dimension." "When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment, he did not quote what we know as the Great Commission." Instead he quoted the Great Commandment. "The most powerful apologetic for the gospel today is true Christian community." "Task is not negated. It just flows out of community." "In the emerging culture context, community is essential to accomplishing the task." (110-111) [I would have appreciated some acknowledgement of the "all nations" aspect of The Great Commission and how that part relates to the discussion. Dlm]
Today's leader is more a gardener than an architect. Communities grow rather than being built. Gardeners are flexible and patient, with no guarantees.
One emerging leader states: "We measure our success by our ability to maintain relationships rather than an arbitrary mission…." (121) Younger leaders want to work in community and also set the agenda. (121) [Might there sometimes be confusion about what mission is arbitrary and what is biblically mandated?]
Chapter 7. From Directing to Empowering [Does it have to be either/or? Dlm]
Some leaders believe the senior pastor should be the primary vision caster and others are to implement the vision. Younger leaders want more ownership in collectively developing the vision. Too many church leaders are operating more like CEOs than shepherds, using a business model of control to produce numeric growth. However some younger leaders know how to drive better in this new culture. "Learning should replace control as the fundamental job of leadership." "As they make suggestions for change, they run up against a brick wall of the existing leaders who are not willing to make the necessary changes." "If we do not empower the emerging leaders of the future, they will walk away…" (132-33) [This is no doubt true in many situations. But just as we all know controlling leaders, we have also seen young, inexperienced adults who think they have all the answers and should be listened to as experts while they are not open to correction and learning themselves. The errors go both ways. I'm sure the author acknowledges this. Dlm]
"Existing leaders will have to be givers. They will give away power, give away control and give themselves away to others." (136) "In addition to being a servant leader, the existing leader has to be willing to share leadership with the emerging leaders." (138)
"To become true partners in leadership, both existing and emerging leaders should listen to each other." (141) Both need to admit they need each others.
"The existing leader becomes much more of a guide than a general." "The emerging leaders will need to have patience. They must understand that they still have a lot to learn from older, wiser existing leaders." (144-45) [Oh, here it is.]
Chapter 8. From Destination to Journey
[As soon as I read the chapter title, this question popped into my mind: If it's all about the journey and not about the destination, do you need a leader? In this chapter, Long refers to a destination as represented by a master plan or a map in contrast to a journey represented by a vision and a compass. It seems to me that destination and journey are not proper opposites and that the conversation is more about how we make progress. We need adjustable, flexible plans based on a changing landscape rather than detailed and inflexible long range plans based on history.
Chapter 9. From Aspiring to Inspiring
More young people feel inadequate to lead, are overwhelmed by their baggage and fear that becoming a leader will separate them from the community. Many have a whole set of developmental needs and would not have been considered leadership material in the past. Many are full of passion but unfocused. We need hinge leaders who can move between existing and merging leaders, holding in tension the best of both.
Emerging leaders need to be passionately committed to helping the existing church transition into a new way of doing ministry. They need patience and they need to recognize they have something to learn from existing leaders.
"Many existing leaders are concerned that the emerging leaders will not only seize the opportunity to minister within the emerging culture but also will be seized by the culture and become absorbed by the culture. On the other hand, emerging leaders are getting impatient with the existing leaders who are standing outside, afraid to enter into the emerging culture lest they get tainted." (187) [We always face the tension of how to be in the culture but not of it. Somehow we older North American Christians tend toward being of the culture while not in it, whereas many younger Christians seem to be of it and in it! dlm]
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Some additional thoughts:
There seems to be a good deal of whining by young people that they aren't listened to or treated with respect (i.e. as experts), even if they have little experience or expertise. Among them are those who are products of broken homes and dysfunctional families, who have never had people who truly cared for them and taken their best interest to heart. Another subset includes those who have been idolized from birth and have come to a very high opinion of themselves. Both tend to have authority issues.
In order to show the contrast in leadership styles, Long seems to have lumped older leaders into the hierarchical command and control model. Of course, there are many such leaders, but there are also a great number of older leaders who are much more caring and collaborative.
Long blames secular management for the command and control leadership style. It may perhaps be more a military model. While many secular leaders exhibit the qualities he decries, the secular leadership and management literature have been promoting shared leadership, emotional intelligence, transparency, vulnerability, good listening, trustworthiness, even love and care for 50 years beginning with Douglas McGregor's The Human Side of Enterprise published in 1960.
I wonder how Long would view today's college or professional sports coaches as models for the younger adult generations. Coaches often have to meld into a team a number of players who have been idolized and pampered and help them sacrifice their personal desires for the good of the team. Many who think they are above teaching must be taught the fundamentals. While appreciating and caring for the players, the coach must insist on his own way based on the experience he has that the players have not. The coach has very little leverage over the players who are often very much in demand. A successful sports coach must indeed be a wizard.
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