Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Leadership: The Vaughan Factor

One of the topics which comes up repeatedly on Bishop Mike Hills blog is that of leadership, connected both to cricket and the church. 3 of my favourite subjects....

Cricket (stay with me here). England have had, until the last week, a dreadful tour of Australia. Somehow they've managed to qualify for the final of the one-day cricket series. Key factor in this is Michael Vaughan getting fit enough to take over from Andy Flintoff as captain. Vaughan has hardly scored a run, but he's been able to get the best out of his players
- folk who probably wanted to go home a week ago have found the motivation to stick to the task and to win
- Flintoff has raised his game, is bowling well again, and is playing more to his full potential
- another bowler, Panesar, has been more effective because of the way Vaughan has handled him. As a spinner, Vaughan has taken the risk of putting lots of fielders close in, trusting the bowler to bowl well, rather than putting them all round the boundary.

Lots of stuff about leadership there:
- trust often gets the best out of people, and on average gets better results than mistrust. If your skipper trusts you then you'll be more confident in yourself. Where Christians are involved in tougher work: leading change, engaging in mission, pioneering new work etc., they will do better if they have more confidence in what they're doing, and they'll have more confidence in what they are doing if they are trusted by their leaders. And this is not the 'we trust you to get on with it, we're here if you need us' laissez faire leadership which comes naturally to the CofE, but the active, supportive, encouraging trust of one who takes an interest and knows you well enough to know how to help you perform at your peak.

- some people may look like leaders, but will do better if they're freed from leadership to get on with the work. Flintoff is a case in point. There are probably people in church who, because we're short of leaders, get pressed into service, when in fact they're better with burdens of decision making being taken off them so they can do the work of ministry, and do it really well.

- leaders don't have to be really good at the things they're leading. But you do have to be good at helping other people be good at what they're doing. I'm probably not great with finance, or with childrens work, but in the last week have met with people responsible for both in the church to try to set a direction for these things and to help us do them better. I'm probably not that good with people either, but seem to have found myself in the role of 'Mr Action Plan', at a time when our church has needed to work on some specific issues. If I can help other people be excellent at what they do, then I think that's good leadership. And much better than me trying to do it and being rubbish (and getting very tired, and getting less effective at the things I'm good at)

- leaders sometimes just have to keep people on board long enough for them to see the tide turn (sorry to mix metaphors). Sometimes it's easier just to let those people who ask awkward questions go somewhere else with those questions, but that's not what being the body of Christ means. Things like patience, love, self-control, grace mean that I stick with my discouraged and demoralised brothers and sisters and keep reminding them that Jesus is risen, that the resurrection follows the cross, and that we're the body of Christ, not a club where people just opt in and out of membership as they see fit.

In a sense the cricket touring party is a good metaphor for the church: they are strangers in a foreign land, they are there together, they are there for a common purpose, and you can't opt out or change the game or join a different team (though if you're injured we'll take you off the front line so you can be cared for and come back to full health). And whether you win or lose, you keep on going.

And the leaders need support too: Vaughan is a confident guy, but he's blessed by the confidence that others put in him, and their willinginess to take flak for him. And he gets injured too, and when he does others have to be prepared to step up and lead.

That'll do for now, my daughter wants me to help her do some sticking. Far more important than any of this stuff.....

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