Sunday, September 21, 2008

Leading well - dealing with complexity

As we gathered with our friends today, a few of us began discussing Dan Allender's book which I spoke about in yesterday's blog. Little did we know a parable of leading was about to play out before our eyes.

Caelan walked into the house asking for something that sounded like 'boker weer'. He kept repeating it, and obviously wanted one of us to get up and go with him to find 'boker weer'.

The occasionally dutiful parent that I am, I got up. I couldn't work out what he was saying, but figured the first word sounded close enough to 'book'. I knew we had some of his books in the car, so I took his hand and we walked outside.

I got to the car and let go of his hand, opened the car door, grabbed his books, and gave them to him. There: a quick, easy fix. He looked less than impressed. I walked back inside the house and sat down, duty fulfilled.

But no. Caelan came back in and started up with the 'boker weer' business again.

This time Jim went with him, and they were gone for quite a while. When they came back inside, I got my lesson in leadership for the day, and no one even had to draw the conclusion for me: it was plain enough.

Caelan had taken Jim's hand and they had gone outside. When they got to the car, Caelan didn't let Jim's hand go, but kept on leading him up into the backyard. There, after looking around at a pile of rocks and a campervan, Caelan located 'boker weer' - a 'broken wheel' lying on the ground - he had seen it a number of weeks ago on a backyard expedition, and was obviously keen to renew the acquaintance.

His curiousity sated, both came back inside and relaxed.

Though I'm not too far into Allender's book, he talks about the reality of complexity and how many of those who lead try to overcome complexity with 'rigid' fix-alls - because it's easy and it confirms the leader's authority and wisdom.

Complexity is seen as a threat to many who lead. Rather than listen attentively, and risk reiterating what you think you've heard (and probably mishear it the first two or three times), it's easier to just come out up-front with an easy fix that implies you've identified the issue and the shotgun solution.

With a copy of The Wiggles colouring book thrust into the hands of those who are asking for 'boker weer', you can then safely (?) assume that they will learn to shut up and recognise that though they thought they were asking about a broken wheel, what they were instead asking for was what you gave them (at least, that's what they really needed, right?).

Or they will keep calling 'boker weer', 'boker weer' for a while until they discover you're not listening and are still only offering them the colouring book. And, if they have the persistence and someone else has the patience, they will eventually find that someone who's willing to be led by them in search of 'boker weer', whichever way that particular white rabbit happens to track (it's part of learning to lead wisely and maturely - being willing to follow the hunches of others, even when they lead down a different road to our own).

We ignore complexity to our own peril, and to the demise of the wonder, creativity and curiousity we find around us in other people.

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