Transformational Leadership Day 2 at Duke

It was a cool, crisp day on the campus of Duke University.  After a morning tour of the chapel, we spent a couple hours with Wes Granberg-Michaelson, former General Secretary of the Reformed Church in America exploring the subject of Transformational leadership.  The General Secretary is the equivalent of Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton in the ELCA.

Wes has a long history in denominational work, both in the United States as well as Globally.  Sitting with him at lunch yielded some great stories about his travels.  But, most of the morning was focused on the Spirituality that is at the heart of organizational change.  He highlighted for us the fact that, at his last count, there are 6,243 books on Leadership currently available on Amazon.  The vast majority of them are focused on technique.  He's not disputing the value of technique, but helped us see the need to focus on the person of the leader.  "All the doing has to be rooted in being."

Shortly after his election as General Secretary, he announced publicly that he would be taking one day away per month to go on a spiritual retreat.  This saved his soul and his butt, because it recentered him on a regular basis.

Wes lifted up the importance for denominational leaders to have a spiritual director, using the metaphor of fly fishing.  "I like to go fly fishing in Montana with a guide, because a guide has been down that river before, and knows the pitfalls, smooth spots and location of the fish."

I have a couple of pages of quotes related to the soul of leadership from this day.  It was a rich conversation with a person who worked hard at organizational change, while keeping it rooted in a spiritual activity.

The afternoon gave some time off, so I took a long walk around the Duke campus.  Mostly, cause all this sitting has gotten to me, and I needed to move my body for a while.

But, the late afternoon session was a very helpful session on change style.  While we all recognize that change is a part of life, as well as our work, we learned (not surprisingly) that people have various approaches to change.  Using an instrument called the Change Style Indicator, we each discovered our preferred approach to change.

If you imagine a continuum.  On one end is the Conserver, on the other end is the Originator, and in the middle are the Pragmatists.  


You plot yourself along that spectrum.  Not surprisingly for those of you who know me, I landed between Pragmatist and Originator.  Remember, it's a spectrum or continuum, not an either/or

Conservator's prefer to accept the exisitng structure, and like change in incrementation.

Pragmatists explore the structure of an organization, and prefer change that is functional.

Originators challenge the structure, and prefer change that is expansive.

The key learning for me was the value of each part in the change process, and viewing all the types as making contributions along the way.

All of this was rooted in the work of William Bridges, author of many books on Transition, which explored the process of change.  Interestingly, Bridges used the Exodus narrative as an influential part of his work.  

Bridges describes the process of change as initially a process of grief.  What's ending? What am I loosing?  What do I have to let go of as we move through this change.  This explains why most people's initial reaction to change hoisted upon them is "no."   They are grieving what they may loose. As you move forward through the neutral zone, the "Back to Egypt" committee rears it's head and points to how good we used to have it. The leaders job is to focus people's eyes on what is ahead.  Ironically, like Moses, once the New Beginning is reached, it may require a new leader to move people into the Promised Land.

A great dinner, and a night off to process what we've learned.  More tomorrow as we wrap up and head home.