"In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up."
Martin Niemoller

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Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 405

Estimated reading time:  2:45 minutes


Hello from Whistler! I’m attending a clergy conference with my colleagues from the Diocese of New Westminster. The sun is shining, the air is warm and we are so very fortunate to be able to enjoy this spectacular place so close to home.


Our work this week has been lead by the theologian, Richard Topping http://vst.edu/people/rev-dr-richard-topping. Richard spoke eloquently about the dangers of suspicion. We live, he argues, in a time where intelligent people pride themselves on their suspicion and ability to criticize. We are separate ourselves from the ‘fools’ who don’t see the folly of their ways as clearly as we do. We find ourselves detaching and disengaging on the assumption that by separating ourselves we are more objective and able to “see” the truth. We set up a kind barbed wire of criticism. 


This plays out for us as leaders in any number of ways; our focus on the ‘real world’ bottom line at the expense of fluffy and ‘soft HR issues’, our focus on analysis that can override creativity and imagination, or our focus on negative feedback, speaking only to our reports when there is a problem.


That is not to say that we return to a supposedly happy time of naiveté and unfiltered reception. Rather, Richard is calling us to a renewal, a recognition of the power of imagination, the power of a group of people willing to dive into both difficult and amazing work together. To tear down the ‘barbed wire’ of criticism and be friends with each other. Friends are the people who have our permission to both challenge us and affirm us. Friends do not simply endure each other, but rather are refreshed in each others’ company. That is a very different way of seeing how the people in our organizations might work together. It is a call not to be friends with everyone (that would be impossible), but to work together through networks of friends, people who I trust to affirm and challenge me and vice versa, and through the various degrees of separation. We might then be able to build very powerful networks of people who are not able to simply do together, but who are able to do the much more difficult work of being together.