Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Complexity and Careful Leadership

by the Reverend Kenneth Gordon Hurto, Lead Executive, UUA Southern Region

We all use tools. That is a defining trait of being human. Tools are good. Yet, as this adage from Abraham Maslow suggests, it is important to have the right tool when faced with a problem.

We on the Region’s field staff like tools. We are eager to make them available to congregational leaders to help them cope with the challenges of the modern church. Here are a few:

We like “small group ministry” as a way to help our people go deeper with one another and in their understanding of life values and commitments.

We think “program budgeting” is a necessary tool to align a congregation’s Mission with its resources.

Oh, Mission: we believe it vitally important to have and review every few years a congregational “Statement of Mission.” We really want it to be short, memorable, and reflective of the congregation’s core values.

Perhaps more than others, perhaps, our team needs to review congregational web sites. We know they are better tools if they are fresh, colorful, addressed to the next guest who may look you up before coming to worship, and if address, telephone number and directions are prominent on your splash page!

In the same vein, we have learned the good results from an active, well-monitored Facebook page. Learning how to effectively use social media is a must have tool.

Our work often includes congregational transitions. We have tools to help recruit your religious professionals, to work out letters of agreement, or lead a “start-up” workshop for clarifying roles and responsibilities.

Leadership development is a large tool we use in many settings. The Southern Unitarian Universalist & Dwight Brown Leadership Experiences (coming July 24-29 & August 7-12) and the annual Presidents' Convocations (July 8-10) are mega-tools, at which participants learn in depth about faith development, self-differentiation, conflict management, and congregational growth. This is in addition to the daily consultation our team provides Board Presidents and clergy. We also have a tool called “Extended Leadership Experience” which utilizes area clusters over several months of engagement.

We also like to use something called Appreciative Inquiry, another, Polarity Management, or Compassionate Communication to help congregations move forward in times of change or when tensions build. More recently, we’ve added a tool for inter-cultural and multi-cultural competence called Differences That Make a Difference (May 21) to further our ability to be more inclusive and manage diversity well.

As the song suggests, these are just a few of our favorite things in our tool kit. But make no mistake: tools are of no value when wrongly applied — either because the tool is not apt for the problem or it is used with the wrong intent. This is why I often tell leaders, “how” you lead is more important than anything you do! I am also fond of saying most any tool will work if there is mutual trust, respect and good will, but no tool will work if those qualities are absent.

A growing congregational leader will expand the repertoire of responses (i.e., tools) for addressing problems.  

So, don’t be a one-hammer slammer. Think of yourself as a multi-tool. It will help you in the complex role of leading your congregation.