5. The Myth of Rationality: Understanding Human Nature

Annoyed Meerkats interacting

Developing and understanding of systems thinking and sensibility enables congregational leaders to lead strategically. Understanding the dynamics of congregations as emotional systems is a key part of leadership training offered by the UUA at both our online an in-person leadership schools.

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Anxiety and the Brain

Our human brains are amazing organs. Along with our rational abilities, our brains enable us to pick on on the emotions of others, and to react immediately when we are in danger. Alas, the flight/fight/freeze anxious response can be triggered by all sorts of other stimuli. As a leader, the important thing to understand is that in order to keep people's reasoning capabilities functioning, you want to keep anxiety as low as possible.

More on reducing Anxiety

The Self-Differentiated Leader

Self-differentiated Leaders know who they are well enough that they also know where they stand, and what they will and will not do; they understand the necessity of boundaries, and work within the congregation to ensure that healthy boundaries are in place and are supported; they can be clear in who they are, without requiring others to join them in that same place, but instead to be true to their own self.

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The Temptation of Triangulation

If you find yourself in the middle of someone else’s squabble, you are being triangulated. If you find someone else wants you to take responsibility for their communication, you are being triangulated. Those who most habitually take the role of the responsible ones—and this is most of our congregational leaders—are most susceptible to being triangulated. From a systemic point of view, triangulation is a means of reducing anxiety. The more anxious a system, the greater the tendency to triangulation. Those who are most anxious will have the greatest tendency to triangulate.

More on Triangulation

About the Author

UUA Congregational Life Staff Group

The regional Congregational Life staff are congregations' local connection to the UUA. All of the program Congregational Life staff have expertise in most aspects of congregational life and each also has a few program areas of expertise. See the...

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