Welcome to The SHAPE of a Leader. I write this blog with the SHAPE leadership development program (for women pastors) I lead in mind, but it is for all who are interested in leadership, faith, and the intersection of the two.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Writer's Block

I’ve had writers block. If you’re a writer, you know all about that.  Anyone in any regular creative endeavor has found themselves at one time or another stuck with seemingly no way to proceed.  Undoubtedly, something always jars loose the obstacle in the mind that won’t let you proceed.   I’ve come to recognize the source of my writer’s block as a combination of two seemingly disparate situations that are surprisingly connecting in my mind around the theme of faith crisis/doubt. 

My daughter’s best friend has been in a 14-month battle (yes, I chose that word) with grade 4 glioblastoma brain cancer.  She’s 25. In the midst of this, my prayers have consisted of begging, bargaining, and pleading. And I’ve asked the “Why?” questions that are so unanswerable. And I’ve shaken my fist at God.  And, I’ve found myself in moments of faith crisis.  I have places to bring my doubt and my anger. And, while I’m dismayed that, rather than being able to lean deeply on my faith in this time, I have found myself at times in crisis, I know that it’s normal and it will be ok. 

The second situation is one I’ve been pondering as I’ve been studying mission and leadership at Luther Seminary.  That being that the United States is in an institutionalized religion crisis.  These two situations are intersecting for me in this moment at this point of doubt. 

These situations intersect at doubt because we (“the church”) are told that institutionalized religion isn’t cutting it for the “seekers” and the young.  It’s not a place that welcomes the “Why?” questions or the doubt.  We don’t dig deeply into the mucky stuff and the hard stuff of faith; we are afraid to discuss the theological wrestlings for which we have no answers; we sugarcoat theology to make it palatable; and so we’re losing the up and coming generations.

I don’t know if we know exactly why people are rejecting church these days - certainly there isn’t one single reason and there isn’t a simple fix.  And none of us will have the answers to some of our theological WHY questions while we walk this earth. 

But here’s the leadership thought of the day:  if we as leaders aren’t making space – a lot of space – for talking about the hard stuff; if we aren’t welcoming the “Why?” questions; if we aren’t loving people through their doubt and their faith crises, and being vulnerable enough to share our own, then we are missing a big piece of the command “love thy neighbor.”  We are also missing a great opportunity to lead.  So I ask you, what is your church doing (better yet, what are YOU doing) to make a lot of welcoming and loving space for conversations of doubt and really hard theological questions?  When was the last time you shared your own questions/doubts with others?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Leading through Conflict

Most of the time, we aren't hired to rock the boat.  But progress isn't made without change, and change doesn't happen without conflict.  Conflict is a topic we dig into a lot in leadership development.  As I prepare to lead a conflict workshop later this week, I'm thinking about a few key tenants to remember about conflict:
  1. Significant change doesn't happen without conflict. Be willing to step into it carefully.
  2. Healthy conflict is that which is centered on ideas and progress and a healthy outcome; dysfunctional conflict attacks people and is often about the emotions of the person doing the attacking.
  3. There is always another perspective and our first job is to listen to what that perspective is.
  4. Different styles of conflict call for different approaches to resolution.  
  5. Most people have a "default" conflict style - it will work well in those situations that call for that style - a leader's job is to expand their comfort zone into different styles, so that they can "call up" different styles when necessary.
  6. We all have triggers that set us off emotionally.  Understand yours.
  7. Likewise, understand what reduces your stress, and make an increased commitment to those things during heavy conflict.
  8. Remember the desired outcome everyday. Resist losing yourself in the much of the conflict itself.
  9. Find a trusted, confidential place where you can be vulnerable, and lay bare your anxieties, fears, and hopes.
  10. Finally, remember that God is in the middle of conflict.  Ask, where is God in the midst of this? What is God doing?

Conflict is an opportunity...  good luck with it!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Am I a narcissist?

I was with a group of (mostly) young leaders recently.  In a group conversation about healthy leadership, one person raised his hand and said, "I'm wondering if I'm a narcissist?"  How would you know?

The dictionary's definition for narcissist reads:
1.  A person who is overly self-involved, often vain and selfish.
2.  Psychoanalysis:   a person who suffers from narcissismderiving erotic gratification from admiration of his or her own physical or mental attributes.

My first thought, not knowing this young man, was that if he's honestly and vulnerably asking the question, he's probably not a narcissist, even if he's exhibited those self-involved tendencies sometimes (haven't we all?)!  And my second thought was, bravo that he's truly wanting to look in the mirror and examine that question.  

I think about Jim Collins and his concept of Level 5 Leadership.  Level 5 leaders are always humble.  They don't take credit for anything (after all, isn't there always someone else to whom credit can be bestowed?) and they don't deflect by blaming.  They are not overly self-indulgent. Through this humility, these leaders naturally empower and build confidence and loyalty in those around him or her.

And, I think about Jesus and the idea of servant leadership, which really is Level 5 Leadership at its pinnacle.  Jesus led by serving, by humbling himself for the sake of others. 

Truly, is there a person alive who hasn't been overly self-involved for at least moments?  No, I'm quite sure not.  Moments are different, however, than a pattern or way of life.  I've learned that when I'm feeling selfish or overly self-involved, I ask myself the question that my friend Barb is famous for: "what's my motive?"  What's going on right now that I'm feeling and acting this way?  In examining it, maybe I can correct it for the next time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mark Weber - Living with Purpose

Lt Colonel Mark Weber spoke at Easter Lutheran Church on Sunday in worship.  He's dying of cancer; a cancer he's named "Buford."  His message of living with purpose, intention, and faith is powerful.  I think I need to watch this every day.  Be blessed by his message.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Worth the Risk

 "Safe is good for sidewalks and swimming pools but life requires risk if we are to get anywhere."  (Simon Sinek)

After the Sandy Hook tragedy, a friend and colleague, Deanna, and her elementary-aged boys were talking about the events, wondering what they could do.  They noticed a typical elementary school craft project of an angel hanging at Deanna's computer and they decided to make some angels and send them.  But a few angels can only touch a few lives.  They decided that 750 angels was better than a few.  It was Tuesday.  Then they realized that all these kids would be going on winter break and they had to get these 750 angels sent in the mail the next day!

With faith like children, these boys believed that if they asked friends and family to help it was possible.  So Deanna took the risk and send email to 50 people.  That email spread.  Angels started arriving at Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan, MN.  A business called and said they wanted to pay for overnight shipping.  And the angels kept coming. As angels were dropped off, stories were told.  Before the angels were packed up, they were prayed over, and cried over. Preschoolers made angels and hugged them as they let them go.  The elderly made angels; executives and stay at home moms made angels. In 24 hours, over 1100 angels arrived. In 24 hours, 1100 angels were being overnighted to Newtown CT as a sign that the people of Sandy Hook elementary are not alone.  Angels are watching over them. 

It would have been so easy to say, "that's a great idea boys, but it's really impossible."  But she didn't. Together they took the risk and in taking the risk, not only were lives in Newtown CT touched, but lives in the Twin Cities, were changed by coming together to do a little thing for grieving souls.  

Safe is for sidewalks and swimming pools.  If we want to change the world, we must take risks.  It won't happen in any other way.  Individuals need to take the risk to speak their truth, whatever that may be.  Leadership teams need to take the risk that might just propel the organization forward, when it would be much easier to play it safe and maintain the status quo. My challenge to myself in 2013 will be to ask, continually, if there's a risk I should be taking right now.

Merry Christmas Newtown, CT.  You are not alone.