We all need hope. It’s a bit like oxygen for the soul. Yet still in the midst of on-going global crises, hope seems in short supply. A leader’s role involves inspiring people with hope – staff, supporters and those they exist to serve. This is a huge personal challenge for many of us today. It’s certainly not easy, but there are plenty of first-hand experiences to learn from and encourage us.
If you want to find out more about what it means to lead with hope, do sign up for a Space for Grace webinar on Friday 26th November 2021 at 9.00 GMT, 10.00 CET.
Email: Elaine Vitikainen email@example.com to book your place. We will send out a Zoom link nearer the time
The profound uncertainty from the ramifications of COVID-19 is like leading in a fog. A leader’s competence will be judged by their ability to create sustainable new worlds for their organisations. Judgement and vision are key. Yet how can one prove oneself to be an able leader when you cannot show them a simple end goal? This will require leaders to engage in ‘learning while working’ according to David Nabarro from the World Health Organization. When navigating the unknown, leaders will need to learn to constantly take in new information and work with diverse sources of intelligence and expertise. We really have to look to learn from those closest to the reality on the ground.
NGOs have spoken for years about actively listening to the people we exist to serve. Sadly this has largely remained as easy rhetoric. We have rarely let it have a genuine impact on our programming and decision-making. Yet in the face of COVID, even the business sector is acknowledging that “addressing social inequalities by understanding the world from the perspective of those who are excluded will also be a distinguishing attribute for future leaders” (Hope-Hailey 2021).
How does your organisation really listen to those you exist to serve?
What one thing could you do differently to make it more active and meaningful?
I just want …………… The answers? Some are personal. Others repair hurts or mistakes. They may be practical or esoteric. Many are organisational, structural or systems-based.
Mine usually center on control, for processes (personal, the team, yearned-for program results) to unfold according to my criteria. Other times it is for institutional well-being and predictable inter-organisational collaboration.
Disappointments, actual or perceived, generate wants. We question God. He should bless O-U-R plans, smoothing the way for positive organisational dynamics or extra funding… as defined by the person in the mirror, the donor community, so-called innovative approaches or even our marketing people.
We are all restoration projects, but disdain and run from the remodeling. It is too close, too painful. We do not value what God is working to produce in us (Is 55.8-9). We neglect His values, goodness and deliverance even though we (purportedly) acknowledge they are enduring (Pro 19.21). Our prayer is to align ourselves to His plan and see our organisations as agents of the reconciliation of all things (Col 1.20)
Stop for a moment and consider: What are your ‘wants’ as you begin this week? What do you think God is saying to you about them? What remodeling do you think God wants to do in you?
I’m a big fan of the work of Veronica Hope Hailey. In the last few months she’s published some ground-breaking research on trust in the face of COVID-19, which we will look at in the next couple of weeks. She found that in the first stage of COVID last year, even in midst the midst of restructuring, divestment and redundancy programs, high trust leaders still lived out the four key ingredients of trust:
Ability: They empowered employees and local managers. Benevolence: They demonstrated care and support for employees both emotionally and practically. Integrity: They communicated how they would navigate the crisis in a timely, open and respectful manner. They sought to demonstrate the sense of fairness that underpinned their difficult decisions. Predictability: They built a bridge to the future in the minds of the workforces by showing employees that in the midst of disruption there was a continuity of values or purpose, sometimes calling upon their historical roots to show how they informed the future vision.
Take a moment to look back on the last year, how have you got on in these four areas? As you look to the week ahead, what specific actions could you take to live out these four ingredients of trust?
The couple of months since the last weekly thought have still been very strange. Perhaps we need to get used to things being ‘never normal’, rather than a new normal.
Here in the UK we felt very self-satisfied with our vaccination programme and related reduction in social distancing. But in most of the rest of the world this is not the case. We see distance and division increase, with red-listing countries; vaccination inequity and rising inequalities. We witness harrowing disasters across the world, whether natural or man-made in Ethiopia and Afghanistan. Listening to the news, I’m often reminded of the book title by Chinua Achebe ‘Things fall apart’.
Yet the Bible has a different narrative. It says that Jesus ‘is before all things, and in him all things hold together’ (Col 1:17). At times like this I have to shift my gaze. It helps me to meditate on this and apply this to my life today.
What does ‘in him all things hold together’ really mean in our fractured world? What does it mean for the families, communities and organisations that I am a part of?
As Space for Grace takes its own annual break over the next couple of months, why not take some time to reflect on how God has spoken to you during this time of pandemic? How did the pandemic affected your relationship with God?
Over the coming months we wanted to showcase your own thoughts and experiences to the topic ‘Leading out of COVID’ (though we know many of us are still in the midst of it). Please do send your own responses to that question (however you interpret it). We’ll help you turn them into Weekly Thoughts that can be shared with this wider community…
COVID-19 has been a massive ‘interruption’. It has forced me to try and change my attitude to interruptions. Interruptions take time from my administrative tasks. More fundamentally they undermine my attempts to generate order. So naturally I try to ‘refuse’ them. But more recently I have been trying to allow interruptions a place, giving them “space and grace”. Not in order to control them, but trying to listen to what they bring to me, looking out for how they might influence what I was about to do or write. Sometimes they inspire me to include things I had not thought about. Although this is still not easy to do, it does make sense.
I find it a way of identifying ‘anchor points’ where I allow my faith to surface during the day. In this way, interruptions paradoxically become a breath of life, a surprising experience of God’s transformative presence (although at the time this may feel more like disruption than transformation!). Interruptions enable my generosity to grow. They change my attitude to my work and my life. They turn my leadership into servantship.