Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Retraining Ourselves in Thought and Action: A Thematic Exploration of Leadership Literature

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Retraining Ourselves in Thought and Action: A Thematic Exploration of Leadership Literature

Article excerpt

It is difficult to look in the mirror and like what toe see unless we can combine - in our lives, in our work - the full development of individual potentials with commitment to a greater whole.1

In my previous article, "Looking at Leadership Beyond Our Own Horizon" (Anglican Theological Review, Winter 2009), I focused on essential mental disciplines and habits of effective leaders: perceptual choice, interpretation of what is perceived, motivations for engagement, and interpersonal interactions. I identified four essential practices that restructure thought processes not only of the leader but of the organization: (1) Perceiving, naming, and expecting people's best; (2) Examining values that underpin (and potentially undermine) intentions and behaviors; (3) Developing multiple "tools" and frameworks for analyzing human enterprises; and (4) Practicing Socratic interactions to strengthen self- reflection on ways of perceiving, relating, and acting.2 These practices facilitate and encourage organizational change. The mental practices and habits associated with effective leadership are intensely developmental, and, as suggested in the epigraph, they intertwine with deep transformation of character. Their effect transcends the momentary work with individuals to the broader good of whole communities and societies.

Such disciplines and habits can be learned. But granthose theories of leadership, one-note solutions, idiosyncratic "on-the-job" learning, consultant reports, and even reading the best of leadership literature and theology do little to change the ongoing lack of intentionality and reflection in day-to-day functioning in all human systems. New mental habits are fostered through intentional practice, with feedback from others: "Leaders need mentors, coaches, mentoring communities, and disciplines to follow in the company of peers who will keep them accountable and offer mutual challenge and support."3

In this article, I focus on leadership literature in communication and behavior, identifying competencies for conflict engagement, leadership development, and community development. I discuss the ultimate aims of deep and long-term transformational mission, with a focus on the deep work of integration. I then return to matters of formation and best practices for die leader in relation to time, objectivesetting, anxiety management, self-differentiation, and creativity. I conclude with a suggestive approach for holistic training and formation of leaders, religious and otherwise.

The Leadership Milieu

Conflict Negotiation, Resolution, Engagement, and Agitation

Two of die most useful books on conflict resolution are Roger Fisher's and William Ury's Getting to Yes4 and Bernard Mayers Dynamics of Conflict Resolution? Getting to Yes provides a solid introduction to conflict and the process of negotiating a decision in conflicted contexts. The authors' description of a kind of "middle way" between hard (competitive) and soft (acquiescing) approaches helpfully provides a checklist for self-evaluation of one's leadership behavior in challenging situations. In a principled approach to conflict, a leader's best practices involve:

* viewing participants as neither friends to soothe nor enemies to beat, but as problem-solvers

* shifting people's focus from hardened positions to inherent interests

* preventing continued hiding of conflict, and pressing for collaborative solutions

* anticipating possible non-resolution by knowing and mustering resources for the next-best alternatives.6

Expecting and playing toward die best in opponents for die sake of finding solutions changes the game of conflict and engages a form of the Pygmalion effect (an invitation which an opponent may or may not accept, depending on the level of conflict intensity). The emphasis on openness, honesty, and diminishing value-ridden, heel-digging positions resonates with Chris Argyriss Model II Socratic leadership. …

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