At a time when people of faith can find it difficult to discuss how their values and convictions impact their leadership style and vocational life, the Alban Institute gathered a group of leaders from across the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area for just such a conversation.
The breakfast event featured a panel of three noted leaders who engaged in conversation about their own experiences as well as their views of the current landscape. James W. Jones, an Alban trustee who moderated the discussion, described the panelists as “exemplars of faith-driven leadership.”
Jones, director of the Washington-based Hildebrandt Institute and a consultant with Hildebrandt International, noted the difficulty that exists in having a “reasoned discussion of religion in the public square.” Because the language of religion and the categories of faith today often result in a person’s being identified with a narrow viewpoint or a specific political affiliation, Jones explained, it often is “difficult for people of faith to articulate values in their vocational settings.”
Pointing to the thousands of people of faith who occupy significant leadership positions and are motivated by their values and faith, Jones contended that there is a need to find ways to make the linkage between an individual’s leadership and his or her spiritual values and religious convictions. He also encouraged a consideration of how faith communities can support such individuals.
When asked about how her values and convictions have shaped her leadership style, Marie Johns reflected on her recent mayoral bid in Washington, D.C. Johns, managing member of L&L Consulting, lost that campaign.
“I was urged to go negative in the mayor’s race,” she recalled, explaining that people said it would help with her name recognition. “But I didn’t do that because it’s not who I am.”
The forces of negativity are incredibly compelling in political races, said Johns, retired president and chief executive of Verizon Washington. She argued, however, that such negativity “doesn’t advance an understanding of the issues,” but rather provides “entertainment, not enlightenment.”
Mike Daniels, executive chairman of Mobile 365 and senior consultant with SAIC, pointed to the importance of a core set of fundamental values that he learned as a youth and has carried with him through life. Those values, he said, came from his family, Sunday school teachers, Boy Scout leaders, and others he encountered while growing up in the Midwest.
Daniels voiced a concern that many youth are not getting such values today, as well as a fear about the impact such a loss could have on the country. He also noted a concern about what he described as a “politicalization of every issue.”
“People yell at each other,” he said. “They are mired on one side of an issue or the other. There is a lack of civil dialogue.”
Dr. Michael Maccoby, president of the Maccoby Group, reflected on his 45-year relationship with an orphanage that provides services in nine countries. He noted the faith and leadership demonstrated by a Roman Catholic priest and medical doctor who heads the orphanage in Haiti. The priest, explained Maccoby, has been influenced by Mother Teresa’s teaching that it is “not how much you do, but how much love you put into the doing that matters.”
“Faith without love is dangerous,” stated Maccoby. “A lot of what we are seeing today seems to be strong faith without love. There is extremism in the church on both sides, while the middle stays silent.”
The panelists encouraged congregations to provide opportunities for people to engage in conversations about how their faith relates to their leadership roles.
Maccoby, a psychoanalyst and anthropologist who also is a noted author and educator, recalled the interviews he conducted for his book The Gamesman, which explored the motivation of entrepreneurs and managers in the high-tech industry. He said that the questions asked in those interviews—such as “What are we doing to our souls as we go up the corporate ladder?”—should be asked in congregations.
“People are hungry for these types of conversations,” he added, “but churches are not providing them.”
When asked about why congregations are not offering such opportunities, the panelists pointed to the politicalization and polarization that impact much of today’s world.
Johns noted the politicalization within her denomination, the African Methodist Episcopal Church. “I’m frustrated that we’re so focused on who is running for bishop,” she said, “that we lose focus on pastoral care.” She voiced a hope that congregations will give more attention and leadership to social needs in their communities rather than focusing on one or two issues, such as gay marriage.
The “politicalization of every aspect of life” should not be the message that comes from communities of faith, stated Daniels.
A former senior White House advisor on international technology, Daniels described his experience in global business. People from different parts of the world and from different religions managed not only to get along, he said, but also to become friends and visit in one another’s homes and places of worship. He pondered why things can work so well in the business world but be so politicalized in other areas of life. “I feel like I live in two totally different worlds,” he said.
Maccoby proposed that the world is facing a huge historical change that could be as great as the Renaissance. Fueling that change, he explained, is the use of technology, the nature of family, and globalization.
“There are winners and losers,” he said, “as there are in every great historical change. The losers don’t know how to deal with it and become angry. The point of leadership is how to deal with it so that it doesn’t become explosive.”
Daniels pointed to the need for role models within congregations who are willing to speak up. “We need to get back to a common ground,” he said. “If we don’t the spiral will continue.”
Since it is difficult for individuals to do that alone, Maccoby said, they need to get together. “We need people,” he said, “who share a view of faith with love and civility.”
The breakfast event, which took place on November 15, 2006, is part of a new Alban project focusing on faith and everyday leadership. The project is exploring how congregations can encourage and equip people to find authentic and meaningful ways to link their faith with their leadership in the larger world.
Copyright © 2006 by the Alban Institute. All rights reserved. For permission to reproduce, go to www.alban.org/permissions.asp.
What Does Ministry Mean? Congregations, Fall 2004
Who are the ministers of the church? This issue of Congregations explores the way all of us, ordained and not ordained, are ministers who serve as leaders in our congregations and the world. In the award-winning article, “A Ministry of All,” Kathryn Palen looks at ways that we can overcome the obstacles of a limited vision of ministry and of compartmentalized lives. The issue also includes Sharon Wilson’s article, “Making Sundays Relevant to Mondays.”
Lending Your Leadership: How Pastors Are Redefining Their Role in Community Life by Nelson Granade
Drawing on his own and other pastors’ work as community leaders, Granade shows that clergy possess invaluable resources for working with people, are trained to look for God’s bigger view and patient working, and understand that asking the right questions is as important as finding the right answers. He offers numerous models for clergy involvement in their broader communities and encourages clergy to reclaim their unique leadership role.