What to Be Curious About, Part II: Adaptive Leadership

This is second in a series of posts about ministry planning in a COVID-19 world.

Part I: The Shape of the Plan

Part II: Adaptive Leadership

Part III: Family Centered Faith Formation

Part IV: Design Thinking and Startup Mindset

What to be curious about one page .pdf resource. (subscribers, please check your email)

Did you know curiosity is an emotion? This is something I learned recently while walking with Brene Brown. As in, I walk while listening to her lecture, “Rising Strong as a Spiritual Practice” Hopefully ministry leaders are taking the time to pause, rest, and make a list of what you are noticing about life, faith, and ministry  in COVID-19

Assuming you, like me, might have the luxury of the next two months to plan for fall ministry, I suggest taking out the list of what you have noticed and approaching it with curiosity. I place a high value on curiosity. In fact it is one of our areas of focus for Sunday school. Learn more about that in this article I wrote for Spiritual Parent.

I am creating a series of posts on topics I am very curious about as they relate to faith formation ministry in a COVID-19 world. Included in each post are resources for learning more.

How will I lead in this adaptive challenge?

“Adaptive leadership is the activity of mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges and thrive.” 

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That time I got to take a selfie with Kenda Creasy Dean.

We are facing an unprecedented and global challenge from COVID-19. Every aspect of life has been disrupted. Adaptive challenges are those that require new learning and new ways of thinking, as opposed to technical challenges which can be solved by experts. None of us has ever faced this before. The learning curve is steep.

The Practice of Adaptive Leadership, by Heifetz, Grashnow, and Linsky is not new to church leadership. It was written for such a time as this.  We don’t need to scan the headlines very long to see the variety of leadership styles that exist at every level of society. Brene Brown suggests that there are two types of people in a crisis, those who over function, and those who underfunction. Perhaps you have witnessed this?

I am practicing being curious about leadership in this uncertain time, particularly  the “productive zone of disequilibrium,” the level of disruption in which people are able to effectively search for complex solutions.  Disruption has the potential to overwhelm us. I am intentionally cultivating relationships that are places of mutual trust and support so that I can manage my own emotions in order to lead through disequilibrium.

I am also learning to be attentive to the adaptive leadership process: observe, interpret, intervene.  I am focusing on both being an observer and listening to the observations of others. I find the question, “What do you notice?” a helpful one in beginning a conversation that begins from a place of neutrality and non-judgement.

Whatever the future holds, my intention is to lead calmly  courageously, in ways that reflect my core values. If leadership is a practice, let the Spirit guide us as we are stretched to our limits, open our eyes to new possibilities, and open our hearts to those we serve.

Leadership Resources:

A summary of adaptive leadership

Dare to Lead Workbook from Brene Brown

Faith Leader Resources from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management

Harry Kraemer’s Values Based Leadership and Leading in Challenging Times Webinar

Church in VUCA Times Video

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