5 Knows self, and handles their own anxiety: Leaders know where their buttons are, and know how to manage their own anxiety; they recognize that anxiety serves little purpose in moving a congregation forward, and instead can lessen that anxiety and help the congregation focus on the issues involved, rather than the anxiety and fear that uncertainty can create; they are comfortable in and with ambiguity
Anxiety kills. We know that — the stress that is a byproduct of anxiety has caused bodies to wear out early, increase incidents of heart attacks, and other medical issues. It makes it harder for us to fight off illness and injury, and makes us more prone to being worn down and worn away by pathogens.
The same is true for congregations. A congregation has an “immune system” of its policies, procedures, behavioral covenants, and the common sense and trust that people have with their lay and professional leaders. When the congregation is at its best, it can weather almost anything with relative ease and confidence, using its tools of best practices, sturdy relationships, and collective wisdom.
4 Emotionally intelligent: Leaders know how to read people emotionally, and how to help people feel safe enough to not be driven unconsciously by emotions. Leaders help people understand how to appropriately express emotions and to use them as forces to move the congregation forward, rather than trapping them in the past.
During much of the last century, leadership was focused on intellect, reason, analysis, persuasion and the concept of experts. There were lots of books describing to aspiring leaders how to emphasize these qualities. Leaders were admired and considered successful based on how forceful or decisive they were, both in business and the social sector. Towards the end of the 20th century, however, we began to see the paradigm shifting. As more women were becoming leaders, leadership styles changed. There was a growing emphasis on collaboration and listening.
3 Culturally competent: Leaders are aware, or becoming aware, that much in their world is based on cultural assumptions of the dominant groups, rather than simply “the way things are;” they understand that congregations must work to determine how they will be—that commonality in values is either created, discovered, or negotiated, and they are learning skills to be able to work more competently across any of the differences that make a difference
Here in the United States, we have unfettered access to other people, cultures, thoughts, ideas. Even if we live in isolated communities, through the value of Internet and libraries and movies and television and radio, we “visit” with other people and get glimpses into the way others view the world. But chances are that unless we’ve done deep work to understand ourselves and our own cultures, including the assumptions we bring into every interaction, we will continue to view the world from our own perspective alone, complete with value judgments about how “they” are doing it “wrong.”
2 Spiritually Grounded: Leaders understand what they believe or don’t believe and are aware of their need for connection to something larger than themselves; they are aware that they need to connect with a deeper core that gives them balance, intuition, and commitment.
Spiritually grounded. As a leadership trait, it may sound a little vague. After all, Unitarian Universalist leaders are generally involved in a Unitarian Universalist religious community. That in itself can be seen as a spiritual practice, a practice which, ideally, grounds leaders in our faith tradition, a spiritual home.
1 Mission driven: Leaders know why they are active, and how they are seeking to make a difference in the world; they understand that congregational life is not about making people “happy,” but by knowing how the congregation is called to serve their community, and are then faithful to that calling
The leadership of the future needs to be focused on mission and vision. Of course. The simple, obvious argument for this is that, to the extent that churches will need to be going basically new places, then the ability of leadership to deal with the large questions of “where are we going and why are we doing this?” become more crucial. And a huge chasm opens between the question of how to do better what we have done (often encompassed in wisdom about “best practices”) and where and how to go somewhere new.