Wednesday, May 26

Leader as Designer

A couple of weeks ago, Collide Magazine posted a very thought-provoking piece on the role of a leader. It talks of author Peter Senge, who often asks groups of leaders to imagine themselves as head of an ocean liner and their role within that organization is the leader. He then asks them to pinpoint their role within that organization. The most common answer is the captain, but others will name navigator, engineers, helmsmen, etc.

Senge argues, however, that the most important role of leadership is never mentioned - that of the ship's designer. The ship's design will influence much of what the other positions can do: How fast they can move, what direction they can turn, how quickly they can turn, etc.

The article has really got me thinking about the leadership roles that I fill and how I can help the "design" process to make the organizations better able to respond to conditions and better able to stay on course and move toward their purpose more effectively. Often, we as leaders don't think broadly enough. We try to manage the status quo rather than thinking about organizational systems that may be hindering our effectiveness. Leadership isn't always just doing the same thing we have always done. Sometimes what we have always done needs to be re-evaluated or even re-designed to better accomplish the purpose of the organization.

One could even say that one of Jesus' role as a leader was to re-design the spiritual structures of his day and bring about a better way (the only way) for people to know God and be reconciled to him. He received opposition from those who were vested in the structures and status quo of the day, but Jesus' goal was to give all people access to God through his death and resurrection and our faith in him. It wasn't a tweak of the "organization" - it was a brand new (but long promised by God) "re-design."

I currently serve in some kind of leadership capacity for about eight different organizations. (That is probably more than I need to be involved in, but that discussion is for another post.) Some are Christian organizations and some aren't. They range from local groups to national ones. One of my roles for each of these organizations is to help evaluate the design to make sure that each part works together to accomplish the purpose of the group.

As a leader, are you thinking big picture? Is the structure of your organization helping or frustrating your effectiveness? And if the design is in the way of the purpose, which is more important to you?

1 comment:

Gretchen Magruder said...

Great thoughts, Mike - thanks for sharing the article. The older I get, the more I see this to really be true....leadership is more about loosening my grip, equipping, and giving others the freedom to serve the way God leads. Good stuff!