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.