Main Content

Leader Resource 1: What Leadership Is and Is Not

Review Gil Rendle’s presentation on Leading Change, from UU University 2007, or read the synopsis of his keynote.

In his presentation, "What Leadership Is... and Isn't," Alban Institute consultant Gil Rendle describes management as "something that makes the organization operate smoothly." He says that management tries to answer the question, "Are we doing things right?" If this is your primary question, then what you are doing is trying to "satisfy" a congregation. Rendle notes that a completely satisfied congregation is difficult to lead because they don't want to try anything new or do anything differently.

By contrast, Rendle says leadership asks the question, "Are we doing right things?" Rendle explains that asking this leadership question creates a necessary unsettledness in congregations because it makes congregants look more deeply into what they are doing. Both leadership and management are necessary, but leaders need to focus on leading, and not seeking simple harmony or satisfaction.

Rendle further explains that true harmony does not mean everyone is doing the same thing, but suggests a multiplicity of ideas blending together. As in singing, "everyone singing the same note is not harmony, but monotony." He draws on the work of leadership author Ron Heifitz, who talks about the difference between "reactive" space and "balcony" space. Managers necessarily work in reactive space, but leaders must move to the balcony to see the whole picture. By moving out of reactive space into balcony space, we move away from action to learning, but we also have to be willing to move away from neatness. This is difficult because we must lead into the unknown.

Share, Print, or Explore

For more information contact

Find everything tagged: