Monday, September 11, 2006

Courage at the Top?

True leadership takes courage. A leader has to have vision and be able to have the skills and talents to carry out that vision. There will be critics. There will be hurt feelings. There will be unrest. Leading isn’t easy; however, every group needs strong leadership.

Most people in leadership (whether it is a business or church) want the best for the group they are leading. They want the business to succeed—they want the church to succeed. Many, if not most, people in leadership positions are good people. The problem is that being a “good” person does not make a person a good leader.

Anyone who follows the news knows that Ford Motor Company is in a world of hurt. Bill Ford has been directing the company that was found by his great-grandfather. The Ford Motor Company’s monetary losses are staggering! This would lead a person to ask, “Is Bill Ford a true leader?”

The Ford Motor Company’s Sustainability Report of 2004/2005 will offer up some clues as to whether Bill Ford is a true leader. In the report he says:

“Our Company faces urgent short-term challenges that we have described in our Annual Report and will discuss in this report. We're addressing these challenges by accelerating our business plans to strengthen our balance sheet, optimize our global footprint and deliver more great products faster. That includes eliminating excess capacity, reducing the size of our workforce while improving its capability, increasing our investments in fast-growing markets and speeding up our product development process.”

“Our success as a business in the near term is a prerequisite to any strategy for future growth. However, our responsibility to our customers, shareholders, employees and communities includes preparing for the future without delay. While nobody can confidently predict what the world will look like a few decades from now, it is clear that strong, profitable companies going forward will be the ones that strive for sustainable use of environmental and social capital in a rapidly growing global economy…”

“Since we see sustainability as core to our business success, we are working to develop metrics, targets and milestones to be explicitly integrated into our business plan, alongside the fundamentals of quality, cost and revenue, products and relationships. We're also working on the difficult challenge of reconciling short-term imperatives to deliver financial returns with the investments required to realize long-term opportunities.”

“New business challenges require new thinking, which in turn requires new relationships in the communities in which we operate. The history of industry is littered with the remains of companies that rigidly defended their world view through their policies, strategies, marketing and relationships.

Based on the 2004/2005 Sustainability Report it looks like Bill Ford is a true leader. Lest we jump to conclusions, let’s look at additional evidence.

Last week Bill Ford announced that he was stepping down as CEO of Ford Motor Company and bringing in Alan Mulally to lead Ford Motor Company. Ford Motor Company had continued to struggle under Bill Ford’s leadership. Bill Ford recognized that his skill set was not sufficient to turn around the struggling auto maker. So… Bill Ford fired himself and hired someone else to do the job! Alan Mulally has been the head of The Boeing Company’s commercial aircraft division. Mulally has helped transform that division into the successful powerhouse that it is today. Bill Ford’s selection of Mulally has drawn praise from round the country.

So… now I go back to the original question, “Is Bill Ford a true leader?” The only possible answer is “YES!” He was willing to do what was necessary for the success of the Ford Motor Company.

Why would a blog that focuses on the church spend so much time looking at Bill Ford and the Ford Motor Company? The reason is quite simple—the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Ford Motor Company are in the same type of situations! The PCUSA has experienced catastrophic membership losses. The PCUSA is struggling with identity issues. “Customer” loyalty is at an all time low (in my opinion). The long-term sustainability of the PCUSA is in question. The PCUSA looks a lot like the Ford Motor Company.

Will the leaders of the PCUSA be true leaders? Like Bill Ford, the “leadership” of the PCUSA has tried to turn things around. They have not been successful.

On the surface it my look like the PCUSA regularly changes its leaders. Looks can be deceiving! Many of the same people keep serving in Louisville. The same people keep working on denominational committees (when they finish their term on one committee the serve on another committee). The new moderator of the General Assembly is generally well known in the denominational structure (David Dobler was the notable exception—he was a pastor of a church in Alaska). Things never really change.

If the leaders in the PCUSA are true leaders they will serious consider what Bill Ford has done. If they truly love the PCUSA then they have to question if they are the right people to lead this denomination at this time in its history. Will they have the courage to admit that their leadership efforts have failed? Will they be willing to step down?

Lest you think that I am being overly hard on denominational leaders, hold onto your hats. I believe that same could be said for local church leaders! The main leader in a congregation (whether our polity says it or not) is the pastor or pastoral staff (I fit in this category). Will we, as pastors, be true leaders? Are we willing to resign so that better leadership can be brought in?

Wednesday night our session (for those not in the Presbyterian Church, the session is the local church’s governing board) will be meeting for the purpose of organizing for the coming year. Part of the organizational process has to include looking at the leadership at the top. As we prayerfully consider the future for Evergreen and how our leadership team will be organized to help Evergreen move into that future the pastoalr leadership will be a part of the discussion! I will have a letter of resignation ready should it be apparent that my leadership skills are not the right ones for this time in Evergreen’s history. I will not be doing this to get “pats on the back.” If I truly want the church I serve to grow and thrive then I must be willing to leave it so that it can grow. Last night I had a phone call from my daughter at the University of Hawaii. The dorm Bible study that she leads was going to being in a couple of hours. They were to the biblical text that talked about “...take up your cross daily and follow me.” She wanted to be sure to that her definition was correct. I asked her what she thought it meant. Part of her definition was that as a follower of Jesus we need to be willing die to ourselves every day so that we will be willing to follow wherever Christ leads us. Am I, as a pastor, willing to take up my cross every day? Am I willing to die to myself and be willing to leave the church I serve so that the church could grow? In a nut shell, am I a true leader? Are you?

The PCUSA needs true leaders at this time in its history.

5 Comments:

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