Thursday, March 16, 2017

Mary Kate Morse on Leadership as a Stewardship of Power

Photo Credit: pedrosimoes7

"When we walk into a room, the visuals and viscerals of our presence are quickly calculated by the members of the group as they figure the amount of influence they will give us. The process of addition and subtraction are continually active.

We all do this in social settings. We make snap decisions about whether newcomers are safe and can be trusted with who we are and what we're about. These decisions have sticking power; once they're made, they're hard to change.

Each of us is given a measure of power. There is a steady exchange of power potential negotiated within groups. Like dance partners, we move in social space exchanging meaning in a quiet rhythm of relational cues and discernment. Some people are given more power and some less, but everyone is involved. Power doesn't belong to any one person -- it belongs to the group that constitutes it. The exception is when force is used to make the group follow the will of the leader. 

So the use of power is not just a moral's also a stewardship issue. God called us to steward the resources of his creation, and I suggest that power is one of those resources. The acquisition, management, consumption and distribution of resources are economic issues. So also are the acquisition, management, use and distribution of power for equipping people to do the work of God's kingdom. Anyone who has an interest can learn to understand the economics of the forestry industry or small business. But how can we understand and manage the economics of power?

Even though we value servant leadership, which has a lot to do with the use of power, we usually aren't mindful of the stewardship of power. We tend to equate servant leadership with spiritual, internal character qualities manifested in a leader's public behaviors. However, authentic servant leadership involves stewardship of power, power used thoughtfully for God's purposes as an exchange with a group. It is a kind of bean-counting that acknowledges gestures, invitations and "time attended to" all add up and matter. What a leader brings into a social space plus what happens between people in that space results in influence. Everything about the leader, from the first hello to the final decision, is a reflection of his or her stewardship of power - either for service of for personal gain."

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