Leadership….is not a dirty word

There are two leadership quotes that I particularly love.

Lao Tzu: A leader is best when people barely know he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worse when they despise him….But of a good leader who talks little when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, “We did it ourselves.

Napoleon Bonaparte: A leader is a dealer in hope.

Leadership is not demanding, commanding, directing, or driving.  It is not managing or administration.

We have an oversupply of ‘leaders’ (whether political or otherwise) who lead by being negative, by pointing out the problems in our world, the dangers we face, what we should “not” be doing.

The kind of leadership that is most effective, and that is most lacking in our world today (and if we’re honest, in our church as well) is the kind of leadership that deals in hope, that inspires initiative and energy.  A truly effective leader is one who paints a picture of an alternate reality, who reveals to us what we ‘could’ be, and motivates us to go where we might not go if left to our own devices.

That’s the kind of leadership I would love to see us nurture in the Uniting Church in Tasmania.

What does it mean for you to deal in hope?  Who can you encourage or inspire? What new possibilities can you imagine….and call into existence?

(this story first published in Uniting Tas – the monthly newsletter of the Uniting Church in Tasmania)

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workshop description: re-imagining worship in a traditional space

The Uniting Church in Tasmania is blessed with many fine old church buildings.  They’re traditionally shaped, and often furnished accordingly. Long fixed pews, pipe organs, even old-school box pews are common. Heritage listing prohibits re-shaping many of the buildings to a form more appropriate for a modern faith community.

Those buildings are both a blessing, and a profound challenge to the church – in ways that we’ll continue to explore.

Last week we had the opportunity to run the latest in our regular “Hobart 2020 Forums” for those interested in exploring the themes of “How then shall we live?”, the interim report of the Uniting Alive: Hobart 2020 process.

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leadership by opinion

I’m not one to buy into political debate.

Really, I’m not.

But I’m increasingly concerned about what we’re seeing in federal politics in Australia at the moment.  It appears to me, that leadership and policy-making are increasingly being shaped by opinion polls, and by doing ‘whatever it takes’ to remain in power by pandering to voters.

Perhaps its naive of me to think it, but I’d far rather have leaders who lead from their convictions, from well thought out and argued basis, than by figuring out what’s the most popular opinion to hold.

Where are the leaders who will cast their vision on asylum seekers, mining taxes, or climate change, and then convince us to follow them?    Consultation is one thing, but sometimes the ‘majority of voters’ are wrong and need to be told they (we) are wrong.

At least part (and perhaps a big part) of the issue is that today leadership is executed by ‘sound bite’.  Very few Australians get to hear or see extended presentations from those who would lead us.  Most of us catch 30 seconds on the news at night, a paragraph or two on a commercial news website (with its own axe to grind) or the distilled opinions of others in our facebook or twitter feeds.

That’s no way to engage with those who would lead our nation. But that’s all most of us are prepared to give.

Is it any wonder that our leaders lead based on the sound bites they get back, when that’s all we ‘re prepared to hear from them?

With our increasingly self-centred existence, and inability to enter in genuine dialogue on all sorts of topics, perhaps it’s no surprise our leaders have given up trying to lead us when we plainly won’t follow (that’s a topic perhaps for another day).

Maybe we’re getting exactly the kind of leadership we deserve.

PS: I know, just one or two sweeping generalisations in this post. But still, I’ll stand by my opinion. Unless I take a poll and discover its unpopular.

hammering home hospitality

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail……or so the saying goes.

For those churches who follow the lectionary (a set cycle of bible readings around which church services are based), this week there is a story of Jesus’ encounter with a woman who washes Jesus feet with her tears, dries them with her hair, then cracks open an expensive alabaster jar of perfume to finish the job. All this happens in the middle of dinner….at which Jesus is a guest, and the woman an uninvited gate crasher.  Read it here.

I was chatting briefly about the passage with a colleague this morning, and she pointed out what were, to her, the important features of the story.

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking a bit about hospitality lately, as I’m working with a group of people to host a training/reflection weekend on that theme.  So with hospitality in my mind for other reasons, I read this story looking for, and finding lots of expressions of hospitality.

When you have a hammer, you see nails.  And that’s the beauty of good stories (and the bible has more than a few good stories). Good stories speak at many levels, offering insights into many different situations, and allowing many different ways of interacting with them.

As I think about this story through the lense of hospitality, I’m drawn to ask the question, who offers who hospitality in this story?

Jesus is invited for dinner, but not particularly cared for by the host.  The cultural practice of offering water for foot washing for instance……is not extended.

The woman is not invited, but comes anyway and offers generous hospitality to Jesus.

Jesus in turn, seeing that the host is not happy about this intrusion, or Jesus welcoming of the visitor, extends welcome and honour to the uninvited guest in a must unexpected way.

What does it mean to offer hospitality in our culture today?  Or for that matter what does it mean to accept?  Surely it’s more than bringing a bottle of wine to dinner….or offering to do the dishes (an offer which must by convention be politely refused).

And who are the outsiders in our day? The uninvited? Who is not welcome at the table?  How can we make the outsider welcome…even if we are guest rather than host?

These are the kinds of questions this story evokes for me.  But I have to say, I’m wondering, what do you see in it? What kind of hammer are you holding?