As you can tell I’ve been reading the book by Margaret J Wheatley called, Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time. I can’t say enough good things about this book. That’s probably why I keep on quoting from it. I think she has some important things to say to us, especially those of us who are leading church communities and other non-profits.
Read this whole quote, it’s worth it…
If you look around at most organizations and communities, people are still being kept in boxes. They are not invited to contribute, to create, or to care about each other. Instead, it’s assumed that people must be policed into good behavior. Endless policies and laws attempt to make us behave properly. Yet very few people tolerate this disrespect and constraint on their personal freedom. We become rebellious, hostile, cynical-or we shut down and look as if we died on the job. Whole cultures and generations of people become deadened by coercion, but underneath, the apathy and withdrawal still live human spirits that aspire to live lives of their own choosing.
It is time to become passionate about what’s best in us and to create organizations that welcome in our creativity, contribution, and compassion. We do this by using processes that bring us together to talk to one another, listen to one another’s stories, reflect together on what we’re learning as we do our work. We do this by developing relationships of trust, where we do what we say, where we speak truthfully, where we refuse to act from petty self-interest. These processes and relationships have already been developed by many courageous companies, leaders, and facilitators. Many pioneers have created processes and organizations that depend on human capacity and know how to evoke our very best.
As leaders, as neighbors, as colleagues, it is time to turn to one another, to engage in the intentional search for human goodness. In our meetings and deliberations, we can reach out and invite in those we have excluded. We can recognize that no one person or leader has the answer, that we need every-body’s creativity to find our way through this strange new world. We can act from the certainty that most people want to care about others and invite them to step forward with their compassion. We can realize that “you can’t hate someone whose story you know.” We are our only hope for creating a future worth working for. We can’t go it alone, we can’t get there without each other, and we can’t create it without relying anew on our fundamental and precious human goodness.
Now, here is the thing. For those of you trained in theology you probably wince at the phrase “human goodness.” Many of us have a theology that says, “you are depraved and are sinful.” Now, I am not arguing against that. I believe all of us are in desperate need of a Savior and that Savior is none other than Jesus Christ.
But, I believe that sometimes when we focus so deeply on our brokenness we forget that we were made in God’s image. We need to let this truth be an assumption we also lead with.
Far too often we only lead with the assumption that people are sinful, screw-ups. I believe we also need to lead with the assumption that people are first and foremost made in the image of God.
If you are leading a community, stop forcing people into boxes and assuming the worst about them. Instead, invite them to live into the person that God has made them. Allow them to flourish in their God-given creativity and gifts. Don’t put policies in place that will keep them from screwing up. Instead, give them freedom to flourish (and yes, this sometimes means they are going to screw up!).
Stop assuming the worse about the people you lead and they will surprise you. Of course, don’t be naive, they won’t be perfect. But that’s okay because neither are you.