Leadership is Messy, Not Ordered.

The world today is all about getting things done.‚  To be productive, one must be inherently organized, able to clean off his desk, and have an empty inbox.‚  Highly productive people should have action plans, strategic plans, visions and values that keep them moving towards the accomplishment of a predefined goal.‚  Task and workflow management has become all the rage, while the number of websites created to help a person achieve plans and visions, goals, and task management are arriving to the web on a regular basis.

Being a leader means getting things done, and getting things done means that the leader has to be able to establish goals, plans and strategies that move the organization forward.‚  Task and workflow management, values, and action plans are necessary to achieve the leader’s vision and see success within the organization.‚  Stakeholders in the organization demand results. The bottom line must grow appropriately, whether that bottom line is defined in terms of people or dollars.‚  That is all within the function of leadership.

The way to keep on task and achieve high productivity and results is to avoid distractions, plan the day, do the most important tasks first and overall just manage time to the minute.‚ ‚  The ultimate in time management will allow the leader to get things done which should equal results, growth and success.‚  The stakeholders should then be happy.

Sadly, this highly productive, always on task, vision-driven, and results-oriented image of a leader has become a staple of leadership writing over the past several years.‚  The aspiring leader is told to develop a vision, develop core values, hire the right people and get them on the right seat in the bus and all will begin to flow along smoothly.‚  There is a term for this philosophy in the south:‚  Hogwash!

Leadership is messy.‚  It is not a clean, clear-cut process.‚  It is not a science; rather it is an art that takes in the distractions and uses those distractions as teachable moments.

Structured leadership is an attempt to control the resources and direction of the organization.‚  It also seeks to limit the uncertainty in the life of the leader as well as the organization.‚  However, that is not leadership.‚  Leadership is not so much about minimizing risk as it is about challenging the process .‚  It is about creating dissonance, not resolving it.‚  Leadership is as much about influencing people in crisis as it is in influencing people in peace.

Leadership appears most evident within a crisis.‚  Compare the crisis in New York City on September 11, 2001 and the crisis in New Orleans in September of 2005.‚  Major distractions to both cities forced leadership to respond to the mess.‚  There were no plans to deal with the magnitude or type of crises each city encountered.‚  One mayor demonstrated grand leadership; the other demonstrated abysmal leadership.

Structured leadership is completely inorganic.‚  Values and plans leave little room for distractions to create a new path and new direction.‚  Changes in the market and changes within culture are happening at such a frantic pace that ignoring those adaptations because of a strategic plan or a set of values that drive the organization can lead to organizational suicide.‚  The organization must be flexible and organic enough to adapt and be creative; structured organizations stifle such activity.

From a Christian perspective, structured leadership can hamper obedience to the movement of the Spirit.‚  The biblical model shows Jesus only doing what he heard his Father tell him to do.‚  He majored in interruptions.‚  He welcomed them and acted on them, using the opportunity to instruct his followers or chastise the religious rulers of the day.‚  In contemporary ministry, however, positional leaders search for just the right technique to manage their ministry as opposed to leading their ministry.‚  They seek to balance saving their jobs with doing what is necessary to move their ministries forward.‚  Often times those are diametrically opposed to each other. Instead of doing something to keep empowering change and adaptation, these leaders settle for the path of least resistance.

By minimizing distractions, however, leaders often miss the opportunity for the Spirit to do a new work within the organization.‚  It also could be the suppressant that kills the fire of the Spirit within the leader’s own life; the church finds it hard to follow the wind if it’s leadership is tied to a tree.‚  It is within the movement of the Spirit that the creative power of God can be poured out.

Orderly leadership has a tendency to stifle creativity.‚  The creative genius within someone will struggle to subsist in a highly structured leadership environment.‚  Creativity requires that instead of simply thinking outside the box, the box may need to be blown up.‚  Creativity requires experimentation and failure.‚  While job security for a leader often requires the minimization or total removal of risk, the reality is that without the creativity coursing through the veins of the organization the organization will eventually die.‚  Results will wane and leadership must then be changed in an attempt to stimulate better results, sell out and/or merge with another organization or simply die a slow death.

David has been a systems thinker most of his life. He has started three businesses as well as designed and developed systems and processes in existing organizations. He has a Doctorate in Leadership and has also done additional post-graduate work in communications.

He has also pastored 3 churches and loves to think about, write about and podcast about scripture, theology, and leadership.

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