What is Missing in All This Talk About Leadership in the #UMC

Jonathan Haidt's fantastic book, The Righteous Mind, touches on a number of things related to moral foundations theory which is what made this book so helpful for me. However, this post is to point out one of the minor points of the book: leadership. Specifically he says that if we want to take advantage of the "hivish nature" of human groups so to accomplish great things (like that of honey bees) then we need to stop focusing so much on leadership. 

He goes on to cite other thinkers who say leadership can only be understood as the complement of "followership" (something I made note of here). And not only is leadership one half of the formula, it is not even the most interesting half: "it's no puzzle to understand why people want to lead. The real puzzle is why people are willing to follow." 

Haidt makes the distinction that there are at least two types of leadership styles: Transactional and Transformational. And each has a place in an organization. Transactional leadership uses a a combination of sticks and carrots to incentive followers to a specific action. This style of leadership is helpful when quick, short term action is needed. The drawback of transactional leadership is twofold. First, workers focus on looking good to get a promotion, a higher pay grade or greater prestige. Second, leaders have to monitor workers closely and have costly enforcement mechanisms. If you want people to build a boat then train people to be builders, cut checks and those who are better boat builders will work harder and "move up" into supervision and management. But you don't know who is a good worker and who is a slacker so you have to have metrics and tools to assess each worker and then judge them accordingly.

On the other hand, there is transformational leadership which uses bonds of social capital, pride and loyalty to energize workers. Then you have to trust your workers to do their job, which requires less monitoring than transactional leadership is comfortable with (which some would identify as a drawback to this model). So if you want to build a boat, you don't have to teach people to be builders but only to long for the ocean. 

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
— Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Leadership is not only a hot topic in the business world, but we have a bit of a leadership fascination in the UMC. Recently I shared about the "Clashing Shepards" in the UMC, what seems to be missing in all this talk about leadership is the type of leadership we need is one that take seriously followership. If people are following because of sticks and carrots then you know that leader is short sighted. If people are following because of trust and pride, then you know that leader understands followers. 

And of course, there is great African proverb that reminds us, "If you think you're leading and no one is following you, then you're only taking a walk.” 

The irony is that in an organization that talks about being followers of Jesus, when it comes to leadership it is followship that is missing.