Today’s story is about leading by not leading. When we think about leadership, we often think of a person at the head of the organization, persuading and influencing others to follow, yet sometimes it is more effective to let the followers lead.
The other night my father told me about a meeting he went to a few months ago of all of the parishioners of St. John’s by the Lake (or St. John’s by the Fairway as we affectionately call it, as it is next door to the local golf course. The photo above is not a photo of St. John’s by the Lake, I just loved the sign). Recently, after heated debate, the governing body of the church (the synod), decided that each parish could decide whether or not to conduct marriage ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples. Many people representing local parishes at the synod spoke strongly against the idea of celebrating gay and lesbian marriages in the church.
When St. John’s by the Lake priest returned to his home parish, he called a meeting of the parish community. Keep in mind that the members of this church are typically wealthy, conservative and older. After a lively debate, the community voted 85% in favour of conducting marriage ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples. What was most interesting, is while the parish priest had a personal position on this issue, he stepped back from a formal leadership role and let the community make its own decision. He led by not leading.
Whether or not you agree with lesbian and gay marriages isn’t the point here – although I believe that the decision of St. John’s by the Lake is on the right side of history you have a right you your opinion. (Just don’t comment on the issue of gay marriage on this blog… that’s not what this post is about, and I won’t publish it). The point is that sometimes leaders need to step back and let the followers make key decisions. Otherwise, you may lose them as followers. It’s not to say that there aren’t times when you need to force followers to make difficult changes, but often they will fail if the followers aren’t ready for them. Thus, sometimes, leading by not leading is the only way to go.