Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Some people need rules to live by. That is an observable fact. Isn't it? I periodically go through times of wrestling with the concept of leadership. I read something just now that said 'don't complicate life'. Ja well, if life won't complicate itself I'll promise not to complicate it.
The trouble is, leaders and academics tend to be the sort of people that don't like rules. They see them as constraints that interfere with progress. And that is not a bad way to see rules. The problem comes when these people say that everyone must live without rules. Because most people need rules. Some of us get a kick out of thinking 'outside of the box', creatively, laterally, whatever. But some people need the boxes and the boundaries. Most people?
Really, leadership is about bringing together creative thinking and the need for rules. It is not about insisting that the 'masses' learn to think like a creative leader. And this does not mean denigrating the 'masses'. It is process that requires respect and the acknowledgement that those who prefer to be inside the box also have a part to play in progress.


John van de Laar said...

Great thoughts, Jenny. Maybe I can add some fuel to your mental workout here...

When I do training on leadership I often speak about three kinds of people who are part of organisations/institutions/churches (forgive the colonial metaphor here):

1. The Explorer/Scout - This is the person who loves the new adventure, innovation and discovering new lands/ideas/methods. They are the ones who discover the new world and point it out to others. They are often seen as "rebellious" because they don't like to be restrained by convention or rules. But, they are crucial for organisations and groups of people to grow and learn. They are typically bad as leaders in organisations, though, because they are dismissive of those who don't see the value in the new, or are slow to adapt to change, and they can run too far ahead of the group, creating confusion and resentment.

2. The Pioneer. This person is the one who follows the Explorer and builds a basic infrastructure in the "new world". They don't do the exploring, but they are open to the new and easily and effectively assess it for viability and value. When a new "world" is seen to be good/beneficial/valuable, the Pioneer moves in and clears the ground, establishes the basic structures, and prepares the group/organisation to occupy this new territory. As the new thing becomes more settled, the Pioneer sees what changes/tweaks are necessary to become more effective and can implement and guide these changes. They are good on strategy and motivation, and can communicate effectively in ways that help people to understand and follow. These are usually the best leaders because they can be an effective bridge between the Explorer and the next group of people.

3. The Settler. This is the bulk of people, I believe. They don't like the new thing until they can really see that it is better than what they've known, or that it is a necessary change that cannot be avoided. However, once they've become convinced, they will move into the newly established world, and get to work to make it work - they build and plant and grow and keep the community/world functioning effectively. They do what needs to be done and they settle into routine to ensure that the new world becomes viable and effective. They are absolutely essential for any community/organisation/institution to function, because without them there would be no one to do the daily work. But they are usually bad leaders because of their resistance to change and their total inability to understand or tolerate Explorers.

So, to agree with you - not everyone can live without rules or think outside of the box. The world would not function. It would be terrible if the entire world were leaders - or Explorers. This does not make leaders better - they just have a different function. In my view, it is actually the settlers who are the most important. However, each role is necessary, and all must work togther to create a growing but functioning reality.

For what it's worth...

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Thanks John. This also ties up with the Myers Briggs stuff we did on retreat (I didn't know we were doing that when I wrote this post.)It was nice to meet you in real! See you at synod if not before.