As  leader, it is all about you, just not in the way we usually use that phrase.

As leaders we must always be finding ways to improve our own understanding of what is going on around us and how our personal functioning–good or bad–is contributes to the situation.  As I mentioned in a previous post on mental models, we need to be aware of our own biases, limitations and assumptions.  We could be stuck in a way of thinking that is keeping the congregation from going forward.  We could be responding to a symptom rather than a deeper root cause.

The best way–and I would argue the only way–of testing our own mental models is to truly hold our ideas accountable to critique by others.  A key part of the scientific method is peer review, a method used in academia to maintain standards, improve performance and provide credibility.

Our congregational polity has this same ethos.  Our forebears believed that the will of God, (those of us who operate out of a process theology might call this the persuasive direction of the Holy Spirit) was best determined by a community of people of good will and forbearance, bound by covenant to each other and to God.

Faithful leadership becomes a covenantal relationship when congreational leaders become–as Peter Senge states in his book The Fifth Discipline–fearless in their openness.  Senge quotes former Harley Davidson CEO Rich Teerlink:

You have to believe in your heart that people want to pursue a vision that matters, that they want to contribute and be responsible for the results, and that they are willing to look at shortfalls in their own behavior and correct problems whenever they are able.  These beliefs are not easy for control-oriented managers, and that is why there remains a big gap between the “talk” and the “walk” regarding developing people.  (pp. 262-3)

Our theology and p0lity were founded in resistance to the corruption inherent in hierarchical structures that include bishops and presbyteries that one might describe as “control-oriented managers.”  To be faithful leaders in the congregational tradition, we must create and nurture communities that have a clear mission and that encourage their members to hold themselves and each other accountable to that mission…and to do so in love.

Still, it takes much courage to allow ourselves to be vulnerable in this way, but the results can be transformative.


About the Author
Rev. Renee Ruchotzke

Leadership Development Consultant, Central East Regional Group (CERG) of the UUA.

I have a vision of Unitarian Universalist congregations being led by thousands of diverse, spiritually mature and passionate people ready and willing to spread the good news of liberal religion.  I believe ministry is best when shared between lay and professional leaders. More information about me can be found on the UUA website.

  • Great info!

  • I agree with Matt and Carole the best language fit is ionprtamt for the participants to take something from the session. If the title of leadership competencies is off putting to the participants (I have found this in some sessions I have taken) I would ask the group what would best describe these types of behaviours in your organisation . They may decide to call these attributes problem solving skills . It is down to the common language of the organisaiton and it is best prior to the session to talk to the sponsor about this to gain an understanding. If people feel uncomfortable or intimidated they are less likely to participate. I like to give participants a list of the competencies/skills to select from if they would like to do so at the beginning of the session. Making sure that the list also reflects their language is helpful. It’s all about getting them to take part so the can experience the benefits.At the beginning of the session it is ionprtamt to explain to the participants that focusing on one of these skills during the session will help solidify the learning and that they will get a lot more out of the session. Most people will find themselves in leadership type situations everyday without even knowing this so it might be helpful to put the quesiton out to the group can any of you describe a time where you were in a leadership type of situation . This may help them to look beyond their current role at work.