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The Journey of Everyday Leadership

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August 2017

The Challenge of Change

“Not long ago a medical study showed that if heart doctors tell their seriously at-risk heart patients that they will literally die if they do not make changes to their personal lives — diet, exercise, smoking — still only one in seven (14%) is actually able to make the changes.”

Immunity to ChangeKegan and Lahey’s book Immunity to Change (Harvard Business School, 2009) goes on to note that these heart patients all want to live. None want to die. But, despite their grave prognosis (no pun intended), something within them makes them unable to change. It takes more than sheer will-power to effect change at the deepest levels within ourselves, our churches, our families, and our businesses.

Change comes in two basic forms; technical change and adaptive change.

Technical change is simple enough. If I keep burning the dinner, I learn to change the temperature setting on the oven. A couple of burnt offerings will quickly force a technical change, and hopefully a better outcome.

Adaptive change is altogether different. It describes the capacity to look at problems from multiple angles, even altogether new angles; to change our basic patterns of thinking. It requires greater mental complexity and the willingness to step into unchartered waters to find new solutions.

In a world of rapidly changing technology, technical changes abound. But leadership (as a parent, pastor, or President) depends not on one’s ability with the latest apps, but one’s flexibility in the face of social complexity.

Then add one more layer; our inherent immunity to change. Just as the human body’s immune system will fight against a kidney transplant despite the fact that the transplant is desperately needed for survival, so our personal lives, our family systems, and our corporate cultures are finely tuned to resist changes that threaten the status quo; even when the status quo is relatively dysfunctional.

It’s not that people don’t like change. It’s that we are innately (and unconsciously) wired to resist it — even those of us who claim to embrace change all the time!

This post doesn’t have the time or space to spell out the way forward. I’ll address that in a future post. But let’s resolve at least two things this week. First, let’s acknowledge that while change may be needed, immunity to change is very deeply embedded within us all. Second, until we grasp these deeper dynamics, let’s be gracious with each other.

David Timms serves as Dean of the School of Christian Leadership at William Jessup University.

New Beginnings

This week marks the launch of our fall semester at William Jessup. Our campus bubbles with nervous energy and anticipation for new classes, relationships, opportunities and challenges. I’ve long believed that beginnings and endings hold high importance.

What impressions will I leave with my new students? Will I motivate them to hunger for learning and knowing God’s voice?

 

Steven Covey, in his classic leadership book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, urges leaders to “begin with the end in mind.”

Jesus affirms this notion in Luke’s gospel, saying:

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, “This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.”  (Luke 14:28-30, NIV)

I ultimately aim to see students transformed by the Spirit of Christ, that they might redeem the world by His power.

A recent sermon from 1 Timothy impressed on my heart three key biblical tenets Christian leaders (or teachers) should employ when facing new beginnings. The Apostle Paul urged Timothy to avoid false doctrines – those seeking to win arguments (vs. people) – those seeking to know the unknowable. Rather, he urged his protégé to teach with the motive of love, “which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (I Timothy 1:5). Let’s look at these closely.

  • Leading from a pure heart – perhaps the pursuit of character is the foremost objective of the leader. It supersedes charisma, formulas, and politics.
  • Leading from a clear conscience – leaders must ask whether they are presenting themselves honestly, pursuing self-knowledge, and leading out of obedience.
  • Leading from sincere faith – in whom does the leader place his/her trust? Is it in credentials or position? It is God who ultimately “qualifies” us to lead or teach.

Chances are, something new is blooming in your world. How might you apply one of Paul’s exhortations in order to lead well today?

Daniel Gluck serves as Assistant Professor of Intercultural Studies at Jessup, and Lead Faculty for the B.A. in Christian Leadership program.

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