Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Leadership of Collaboration

Yesterday it was a second page story and today it's on page 5 of the morning paper. And it didn't lead the evening news last night either. Why? Why is the fact that leaders of 47 nations gathering for two days in Washington, D.C. at the invitation of President Obama not headline news? And, for that matter why was the top headline, "Armstrong attacks Obama Space plans?" (I'm looking at "USA Today" the paper available in my motel in Denver)

A nuclear weapon killing hundreds of thousands would have caught our fickel attention. The question is more than the phenomenon of "If it bleeds it leads." The long, hard work of collaboration is not seen as strong leadership.

During the second afternoon of the two-day Nuclear Security Summit, I was sitting around a table with a church staff quietly planning collaboratively, and giving attention to the careful, courageous leadership necessary to work collaboratively.
A conflict ripping the congregation apart would have caught our attention.

Why is it that leading in a collaboratively style is seen as weak? Collaboration is desperately needed, both in congregations and in the global community. And it is possible and can be learned.

Page 9 of the morning paper reported a story describing how lawmakeres rarely work together today. "They merely find convenient allies, i.e. lobbyists--in order to get anything done."

In a competitive society, "attack" is strong. Listening is weak. In a dangerous world, or when things become dangerous within the church, secret meetings, taking sides, tear down reigns. What is needed is careful, open collaboration.

What is the leadership of collaboration? Do we recognize and respect it when we see it? No, it is not "anything goes." That's abdication. Nor is it taking control and keeping control at any cost. That's authoritarianism.

It's setting and maintaining a trustworthy environment. It's having each one speak themselves present. It's encouraging and uplifting the contributions of all at each stage of planning, gently modeling how to bring out a hesitant person's or a small nation's ideas while helping a more dominant one to relinquish the floor. Collaboration is hard work. It will take months or years. In this instant gratification world we want fast decisions and quick results. Co-labor is hard and needs to be sustained by ongoing mutual accountability.

That's what I saw going on around the table yesterday at Abiding Hope Lutheran Church in Littleton,Colorado. That's what I saw going on at the Nuclear Security Summit.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

King's Death an Easter Challenge

Martin Luther King Jr. died on April 4, 1968, at the age of 39. His was a Lenten death. This year April 4 begins the Easter season. We are challenged once again, 42 years later, to pick up the call to work for justice, particularly the unfinished business of calling out on behalf of people who are poor, to ask why does the United States incarcerate more citizens than any nation in the world, particularly people of color, and to carry out our vocation of seeking a just and peaceful world. These are resurrection challenges!

I write this the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the Saturday when Christ lay in the tomb and disciples were confused and afraid. Walmart promises "Easter costs less at Walmart." What kind of an Easter dare they think they are selling?

This Saturday is a heavy day, and yet a day to prepare for the Easter season journey. "Why do you seek the living among the dead?" "Go, tell the disciples that he is going ahead of you to Galilee."

I, like most of us, am perplexed, unsure, confused. Where is Christ leading us? I, like most of us, live between Lent and Easter, and yet Christ calls us forth.

I am packing my bags this day to head out again, this time not overseas but to various speaking engagements in Colorado and Nebraska. So that you will know where I am:

April 4 (with Burton) Bergen, Rowland, Iowa
April 10 and 11 Bethel, Aurora, Colorado
April 13 and 14 Abiding Hope, Littleton, Colorado
April 17 and 18 Mount of the Holy Cross, Vail, Colorado
April 20 Our Savior's, Greeley, Colorado
April 23 Lodgepole, Chappell and Oshkosh, Nebraska
April 24 and 25 St. John, Alliance, Nebraska
April 28 St. Paul's Grand Island, Nebraska

I go because circumstances warrant such travel. I go because I have been invited. I need to remember that it is Christ who calls us forth to vocations in the public world because the work of justice is not done. This year we remember Martin Luther King's work on Easter Sunday....and every day thereafter. Blessings on the journey.