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Jun11MonOur future depends on the partnership of existing and emerging leaders. June 11, 2012 by Colonel Floyd Tidd
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
Bob Dylan may have penned the song The Times They Are a-Changin' almost 50 years ago, but the words still ring true today. Change is all around us and happening at an accelerated rate. With these rapid shifts in culture, many people question whether the Army can change quickly enough to keep up or even risk not changing.
While the Christian Church—including The Salvation Army—has been forced to navigate the often confusing and turbulent waters caused by the shift from a modern to a post-modern world, it's helpful to remember that today's leaders are not the first to face the challenge of a changing culture. In the Early Church, the Apostle Peter was confronted with a similar situation (see Acts 10-11). In spite of his personal convictions about how the Church should be organized and operated, Peter's views were challenged as the Church moved from an almost exclusively Jewish context into a Gentile one. Although difficult, Peter understood that God was calling the Church to minister in a radically new way as it expanded into new cultures. These changes would begin with Peter—the leader—and continue with other emerging leaders as the Church adapted to a changing context while remaining committed to the
Leadership looks different in our post-modern culture. In The Leadership Jump, Jimmy Long suggests that, “If the modern leader is represented by hierarchy and directing, the emerging leader is represented by a culture of networking, permission giving and empowerment.” Long proposes that the key issue facing church leaders in these years of transition is not so much a choice between two leadership approaches but rather how best to form partnerships between leadership styles. A healthy partnership between existing and emerging leaders will effectively guide the Church through these changes, gracefully engaging the emerging culture without compromising the gospel.
Jim Collins, author of Built to Last and Good to Great, notes: “The best and most innovative work comes only from true commitments freely made between people in a spirit of partnership ….” The gospel of Jesus Christ and the mission of The Salvation Army deserve the best and most innovative work. Partnerships are not always easy to achieve or manage, but they are critical to our future as a Movement.
In true partnerships, existing and emerging leaders need to listen to each other. Existing leaders will benefit from the insights and interpretation of the current culture from emerging leaders, and emerging leaders need the experience of existing leaders and their understanding of how God has brought his Church to this point in time. Existing leaders can also provide power, resources, wisdom and encouragement through the difficult times ahead.
However, partnerships are only as strong as the level of trust between the parties. Trust is not easily earned in the world or within the Church and requires time, effort and a willingness to be open and honest. Existing leaders must be accountable to emerging leaders and not just seek accountability from them. In turn, emerging leaders must honour the interest and trust shown in them by existing leaders. Trust shares the resources, the power ... and the mistakes.
As I reflect on my own leadership journey, I appreciate what the Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, refers to as the privilege of being partners in the gospel (see Philippians 1:3-11). At various points in my life, existing leaders entered into partnerships with me, even when I didn't recognize it. In so doing, they strengthened and developed my potential for leadership. A junior soldier sergeant, a cub pack leader, corps officers, divisional youth leaders and other senior officers and local leaders mentored me in various ways. They listened, invested time and opened themselves to questions and shared accountability. They demonstrated and developed trust through the releasing of power and resources. And they took risks that did not always result in success.
Now that I'm an existing leader, I also need to seek out and commit to strong partnerships with emerging leaders. Just like Peter, I need to revisit my understanding of how the Church—and The Salvation Army—will function in this strange, new post-modern culture that is increasingly post-Christian and post-denominational.
If the times they are a-changin', then we should not be surprised by the desperate need for an accompanying shift in leadership—nor should we resist it. The command-and-control leadership style, so effective in a modern culture, needs the influence of a different leadership style that will be effective in a post-modern culture. Our future depends on leaders—existing and emerging—committed to partnering with mutual respect, a joyful openness and willing accountability.
Colonel Floyd Tidd is the chief secretary of the Canada and Bermuda Territory.