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Finding Your Leadership Style by Keith Lamdin

December 12, 2015

FYLSI live in a diocese which is obsessed with leadership and ‘strategies’ and don’t normally warm to a book with a title like this. However, I was pleasantly surprised.

The author has been to Willow Creek but, thankfully, tells us that he doesn’t agree with his theology but is grateful for any tips that can help him to develop his views, often by reaction against the views of others.

Most ministers are pastors, seeking to look after congregations and avoid upsetting them. But as the modern world fails to connect with Christianity, churches need evangelists.

He alludes to Myers Briggs, the Enneagram and Insight (colour) inventories.

The new vicar who wants to change everything as soon as possible is shown to have deep, unmet personal needs.

The dioceses of Oxford and Bristol are mentioned for their innovation on leadership and vision.

In the first two chapters he introduces the idea of leadership as “one human’s capacity to influence another,” and the need for leadership within the church. He introduces three necessary qualities for leadership: discontent to see what is wrong with the present situation, vision to see how it could be better, and courage to speak up and lead people forward. He also introduces six “paradigms for leadership,” which he unpacks in the rest of the book: the monarch, the warrior, the servant, the elder, the contemplative, and the prophet.

He begins with the two paradigms he finds to be more common and also more dangerous: the monarch and the warrior. The monarch is the leader who is in charge, leading to the possibility of safety, stability, and effective organization. He notes that things went downhill for Israel the moment it asked for a king suich as was had by other nations. The warrior is the charismatic leader of a cause with passion and purpose, sometimes leading to significant growth and organizational achievement. Lamdin argues that neither of these paradigms is appropriate for a Christian minister. These forms of leadership always resort to force and end up infantilising the followers—by taking away either their ability to decide or their ability to discern right and wrong.

Theologically, Lamdin argues that Jesus rejects the roles of monarch and warrior, instead adopting the persona of suffering servant

Lamdin then considers the other four paradigms for leadership. The key theme seems to be the relationship to power. The servant gives up power (but can be walked over and be unable to say ‘no’ to increasing demands.) The elder has only the power to ask questions and expose their own ignorance. The contemplative depends on God’s power through prayer. The prophet stands against power with the downtrodden.

Lamdin concludes by quoting Richard Sennett, suggesting that ‘leadership is a craft rather than a competence’ and goes on to argue that it needs to be honed in prayer.


I remember welcoming a priest from Lesotho who was coming to shadow me in Oxford for several days. I was keen that we should make the most use of the time and asked him what he was most interested in learning and watching. He was very polite but clearly did not understand my language of learning outcomes, intentional learning and success measures. After a while he shook his head and told me about the tradition of medicine men in his part of Africa. He told me that they go out into the wilderness not knowing what they will find, or even if they will find any­thing. When they do find something and put it in their bag they have no idea when or how they will use it when they get back, or even if it will be useful at all. Some years later I had the privilege of visiting a native African healer in his house and being amazed when he opened his bag for me and spread its contents on his rug.

There is a lovely saying: ‘It may be possible to train a tortoise to climb trees but it would be better to hire a squirrel.’ If you are in the recruiting business you will know how true that saying is, but never forget that a crisis or a disaster or a change in context or circumstance can draw out amazing gifts from people in whom they seem to be completely hidden.

‘Leaders work out where to go and managers work out how to get there.’ It is also said that all leaders need to know how to manage but not all managers need to know how to lead. It is important to be care­ful in this rather easy distinction. I recently returned from working with a team where the appointed leader seemed to have all the ideas but had not thought through any of the management implications. This left most of his team members feeling very frustrated. Marcus Buckingham’ suggests that the key task of a manager is to enable other people to be more productive, and when I think about the responsibility I have to manage myself that seems to make sense. I have to work out all sorts of things about myself that will enable me to be more productive, more useful. So any leader needs to know at least how to manage him- or herself. He or she also needs to under­stand the issues and implications of strategy and management.

It cannot be said that Jesus was enacting servanthood while on earth but that as Christ he is “lord” of all he surveys. The Jesus on earth has to fully embody the godhead for any view of incarnation to be viable, and so the God of all time has to be understood in terms of the kingdom teaching and living and dying of Jesus . . . while it is in the nature of God to be loving it cannot be in the nature of God to be “in charge.”

The people we select to be our clergy and bishops often turn put to be exactly the kind of people who are keen to take our projections and begin to believe them so cementing this dependency culture into a fortress in which the price of safety for everyone is imprisonment…

I cannot find anywhere in the Gospels any instance when Jesus used position power to force his will. He was undoubtedly outspoken and forceful in his speech, but in the temptations he explicitly rejected the prospect of using his power to bring about his wishes, he never sacked his disciples, and on the cross he chose the way of service rather than power.

I vividly remember two related experiences during my first visit to Toronto. The first was attending my first Anglican Eucharist with a woman priest presiding, and the second was sitting quietly for an hour in a small garden at Emmanuel College in the presence of the sculpture by Almuth Liitkenhaus­Lackey called Crucified Woman. At the first, all the robes of Catholic tradition were there, along with acolytes and incense. What made the difference for me was the voice alone. At the second the naked body of a woman was suspended with arms outstretched, where normally we only see the body of a man.

Sinclair argues that while the body, with its shape, posture, voice and dress, is very important in all exercises of leadership there is little written about it, suggesting that it is part of a discourse that assumes something that is specifically gendered. She notes that many of the narratives of leadership show leaders able to work long hours without rest, doing their daily exercise (there seems to be nothing so good as showing the US president out for his daily workout) and having bodies that never wear out or tire. This mystique of command over the body is evidence that a person should have command over situations and other people.

This means that as a leader you need to pay attention to the impact your physical presence makes. How you stand, how fit you are, how tall or short you are, how over- or under-weight you may be, all have impact. Sinclair suggests that for women there is the issue of how they portray the feminine condition of ‘pregnability, when so much of the leadership discourse has been about being impregnable. From a theological perspective, at the heart of the Christian narrative is the Incarnation, the embodiment of God in the person of Jesus, and with that comes the vulnerability of the flesh to crown of thorns, nails and spear, the physicality of washing feet and the feeding on bread and wine. Most of humanity’s greatest crimes have been focused on bodies — of Jews, of people of colour, of women, of children and old people — and on what people do with their bodies, especially when touching and loving.

My wife is the voice coach at Ripon College Cuddesdon and I have enjoyed the many conversations we have had over the dinner table about posture, voice, breath and support, and presence. The way you talk and use your voice in leadership, whether in a small group or a large meeting, is crucially im­portant. Often the first thing to suffer when you are under pressure is the voice. You are known as much by your voice as by your body and, as all voice coaches know, your voice is not only your larynx but is rooted deep in the very core of your body. Your voice holds and reveals who you are and how you feel about yourself, not only in your private life but also in the public sphere of your leadership.

Patsy Rodenburg, an internationally known voice coach, writes about three circles of energy. In the first, called the Circle of Self and Withdrawal, you are focused on self, are not much available to the outside world, and tend to drain the energy out of other people. You will feel self-conscious, tend to wear clothes that help you to disappear and will find yourself holding your breath or breathing rapidly and shallowly. In the third circle, called the Circle of Bluff and Force, you are full of energy but it is sprayed everywhere and you make loose connections with the world. People notice that you are not very interested in them and you seem insensitive and overbearing. You will often seek to control every conversation, feel that you have to inject energy into every situation and wear clothes that will get you noticed, and your breath will be noisy. In the second circle, called the Circle of Connecting, you will be both giving and receiving energy because you are able to connect with other people and touch and influence them without impressing or imposing on them. You will feel that your body belongs to you, and your breath will be easy and free. Young children full of life are the best example of this circle.

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