The Truth About Disruptive Change

My sense is that leadership these days is more often than not about change. Whether you’re a leader in business, at home, in a volunteer agency, school, or church, the world has changed significantly enough – and doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon – that organizations inevitably need to change, often continually, to adapt to both the challenges and opportunities ahead. And change is hard. Why? Because change is disruptive, and we tend greatly to prefer stability to change because, quite frankly, stability promotes growth. So the idea of changing direction, changing practices, and perhaps above all else changing personnel,...

How Do We Define Competent Leadership?

When I talk about making the move from what I describe as “performative leadership” to “formative leadership” (as I did obliquely in last week’s Dear Partner letter), I regularly encounter a reaction as understandable as it is predictable. First, let me say a little more about what I mean by these terms. Performative leadership is essentially leadership that focuses on certain skills or practices that the leader has acquired through training and practice and now uses on behalf of the organization he or she is leading. In congregational ministry, these are often of the skills of preaching, teaching, pastoral...

Design Thinking

I couldn’t decide whether to put this post under the category of “leadership” or “creativity,” so I finally put it under both. (I know, I know, this shouldn’t be a big decision, but there you go….) Here’s why it’s in both. I think one of the most difficult things for leaders is to imagine something that is beyond our own experience. Actually, I think this is true of all of us. More often than not, the futures we imagine are slightly idealized versions of our pasts, and the solutions we come up with are essentially things we’ve seen work elsewhere or, even more likely, it’s...

Social Capital and Courage in a Brave New World

I’ve suggested on countless occasions in multiple venues that we live in a liminal time, a transition time, a time when major paradigms are shifting and change is the only constant. Which means that business as usual just won’t cut it. In particular, during times such as these, a different kind of leadership is needed. Whereas technical competence and excellent managerial skills are highly valued traits of leaders during the long stretches of stability in between more tumultuous times of paradigm change, those very traits can greatly limit an organization’s ability to adapt to new circumstances. Why? Simply because you...

The Nine-Dot Puzzle and Unnecessary Limitations

In any endeavor you attempt, there are always limitations. Sometimes there are the limitations of the context and circumstances, sometimes of the actors. But there are always limitations. Which isn’t always a bad thing. Limitations set boundaries, define the terms of engagement, and can actually promote creativity. What I find interesting about limitations, however, is how often we set them without even knowing it. And often these kinds of limitations are artificial, at best, and often both unnecessary and unhelpful. This kind of limitation is not likely to be productive because it prematurely closes down possibilities and restricts our...

Leadership Pitfalls: Confusing Titles With Accompl...

There are any number of ways in which the various committees on which we serve or positions we may hold make valuable contributions to the organizations of which we are a part. I am absolutely certain of that. At the same time, while holding positions and serving on committees may be valuable, that is not necessarily the same as accomplishing things. I know that may initially sound odd, but we probably all know – and have perhaps served on – committees that don’t get much done. And we have all seen – and perhaps been invited into – positions that are largely routine or representational. Building things, accomplishing things,...