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Lay Leadership in SocietiesOf all the factors contingent to growth, the quality and style of lay leadership may be the most significant.. Lay Leaders usually carry the burden of management and as such often determine the welcoming character of the Society, along with shouldering the burden of fiscal responsibility. The American Ethical Union and the National Leaders Council have already prioritized this area by the creation of lay leader Summer Schools and the use of outside trainers both on the local and national levels. Mediation and the use of outside consultants when necessary has also been a means to support lay leaders. Now is the time to provide a regular and systematic educational process to training lay leaders that is more accessible to all. Regionally based learning experiences such as these have the added benefit of stimulating inter-societal collaboration.
In the words of Leader-in-Training Hugh Morales, "Everyone in Ethical Culture is challenged/expected/nurtured to be a lay leader. Many turn their "leadership" toward their workplace or home. . . . with that meaning of the term, "lay leadership" is just the stepping into leadership roles within Ethical Culture of those in whom ethical agency and relationship building skills have grown. Everyone practicing Ethical Culture, however, should be on a journey to build ethical agency and relationship building skills in themselves and others." Leadership in Societies builds confidence in the member, and offers the opportunity to render both service and skills that enhance and deepen community life. In relationship to clergy Leaders, Lay leadership carries with it the recognition of equality in deed, differentiated in role. As a democratic community, we seek to promote high levels of cooperation in community as well as increased levels in membership of individual responsibility to the whole. We need as well more interaction with the AEU as well and so, recommend that the Presidents and Leaders together work to identify those local members who demonstrate talent and skill to serve on the national committees. Such service strengthens identity in the Federation as a whole and can increase reciprocal benefit to each, the AEU and the local Society.
New Style Leaders
It is generally agreed upon that the 21st century demands a different style of leadership today. As described by Alban Institute, we are shifting away from the model of charismatic leader toward the team leader, one whose skills are more of an architect than of a strong controlling presence. Good leadership begins in self-awareness. Good leadership calls for flexibility and insight into the needs of the overall community. Good leaders are both good listeners and good followers. Such a leader needs to build a strong team built upon the local context. "Integrity" and "integrative" may be the core descriptive terms of a lay leader, one who perceives the needs of the collective well being, who discerns leadership potential in others and finds opportunities for their leadership development. Identifying the potential for leadership in others includes mentoring and the willingness to rotate oneself out of a role even when membership feels safer in the established way of doing things. Such a leader does not "upset the applecart" as much as prepare members for continual adaptation to the rise of newer members. This may include a willingness to adapt any one leadership role to the skills and talents of the next new leader. Leaders in Societies must determine what is doable with regard to its resources and what type of management structure is "to scale." (cf. Alban Institute recommendations for a Society whose membership is close to 100 members to illustrate. We do not hold that the recommendations included need all be applied. They are merely guidelines.) The GRLT recommends that some attention be given in each Society to particular exemplary qualities of leader described in Kouzes and Posner, Leadership The Challenge, (Jossey Bass, Wiley Prints, 2002). While the authors have developed their expertise from a business model, their discoveries uncover the same qualities in leadership that are appropriate to democratic based institutions. Out of their research, they developed assessment materials can assist individuals to better understand their own leadership tendencies and thereby stimulate among all members a willingness to develop in their local communities more leadership awareness. Those qualities described by Kouzes and Posner are listed below with summary descriptions. The questions within each section suggest special items to consider in any growing ethical culture community:
Preparation and Leadership Education
We encourage all Societies to nurture and educate toward leadership among the widest spectrum of members through workshops and study groups, Platforms, etc., with the same intensity as is necessary to maintain an atmosphere of the welcoming community. We recommend that the AEU allocate resources toward regional training opportunities. We acknowledge those initiatives that are already underway such as the Workshop on Creating Generous Congregations offered by Michael Durall in two different regions and many other programs during our Annual Assemblies. We urge members to take advantage of them when they are offered. These trainings need also to be conveniently located where more than one Society can participate at any given event. We encourage the Presidents' Council to engage more actively with the AEU to identify those areas where trainings may be most important. We also encourage the presence of clergy leaders during these trainings to build trust and clarify roles. These trainings should encourage a high degree of interaction between all participants. Ethical Action
Special attention needs to be given to leadership in ethical action. To achieve greater effectiveness and more sustained cooperating relationship of ethical culture members , holistic models for ethical action are necessary today. We call upon a strong national Ethical Action Committee that will focus as much on how ethical actions are pursued as what ethical actions we might choose. A strong national committee will create inter-societal working groups to achieve those shared common goals thereby synchronizing efforts around important initiatives:
Ethical Humanism connects personal living with moral responsibility to and for community. Our relationships bind us together in universal citizenship. This sense of mutuality leads us to a shared responsibility for the kind of world in which we live. Examining life through the prism of human experience, we see that we are capable of wonderful and inspiring things. We find that there is meaning in the potential for personal growth and cultural transformation. (NLC vision statement)One such model is developed by Dr. Monica Sharma, MD, who created training for those working to address AIDS in Africa. She is presently training a large coalition of NGO's at the UN, in this model. ( Cf articles on MS in Kosmos and Ions.) Her training begins with a small group of individuals who understand the need for systems shifts in the way we do things. Systems shifts are those ways of doing things differently that represent the inclusion of new information and can address emergent needs. One example is the systems shift that is taking place in leadership itself as described earlier. An example of emergent need may be the urgent requirement for international policies that can address the climate change crises and the increase of hunger and inequity. Doctor Sharma identifies five basic elements we might apply to ethical action:
We will not only focus on the whatness of a project, we will determine which values and principles to practice in the pursuit of our initiative. These principles will be chosen for their ability to implement any plan. For example, if we chose to go on an "cultivating empathy" campaign, we would identify the underlying principle is compassion. We would then agree to develop a shared framework for action whose glue is compassion. The underlying principles become the norms upon which we will continually assess our plans for action. Other small groups may answer the same questions differently that will be interdependent upon different principles. Their approach but will carry as much potential for change as they align their frameworks with their articulated understanding of any issue. Such a model promotes a coherent ethical identity along with more rational strategic planning. At the UN, for example, through the NSC, we are identified with human rights. We are, however, less identified with critiquing those who fail than inspiring ways through education ways to promote their implementation along with the consciousness needed to appreciate their win/win potential. It may be that ethical culture recognize its vast resources as an ethics-based organization to increase its skill in becoming policy changers.
Generative language is that which moves others to recognize serious deficits in the existing system and at the same time suggests ways to address the systems shifts necessary to make the changes; such language does not come from anger but from vision; it moves others to engage in such a way that enables the change agents themselves to continue personal growth by walking the walk even though the desired outcome may not be realized. What is attained, however, is the expression of certain principles by which those acting for change are recognized. What is also attained is a more collective way of doing things which will serve to inspire ethical culture's way of doing things through its quest for social change.
An organization that follows closely Dr. Sharma's model may be found at The National Service Conference whose actions and engagements are both flexible and determined by activists' skills and interests. The NSC cooperates with those institutional mechanisms at the UN that nurture reciprocal change between the actors and the systems we seek to change. We work to support the AEU through the many AEU Resolutions we have created over the past years that highlight the systems shifts needed. And we boast of our inter-societal relationships. But we never present a Resolution unless we are actually working on it and are willing to give time and attention to the influencing a more porsitive change in the long run. We enjoy our process because of a common passion we share. In addition, we demand growth in ourselves, which requires high commitment, time and use of our personal resources. We do our own fund raising. The NSC has existed since l929. We believe this approach is replicable in local Societies so long as the small commitment circles are nourished. We know also, that financial resources are not always available for long term social change. We recommend including the vast human capital in our membership as a core component of our wealth. We encourage the National Service Conference to increase its communications to better inform Societies of its process as well as its active initiatives in the context of promoting lay leadership. cf. www.nationalserviceaeu.org.
So long as we take an issue based approach to social justice rather than a more sustained effort, we do little to raise our particular branding in the world. Neither do we promote leadership among our members, by stimulating in them deeper experience with that which actually leads to social change. The expression of outstanding ethical action leadership among individuals is present but reflects largely an old paradigm model of the charismatic inspirational member who does good things but must develop a plan of action beyond the body of ethical culture. We can change this by changing the way we seek to promote social change. Perhaps we might think of ourselves as "influence peddlers" who will take to the streets as part of a larger plan. But in doing so, we continue to maintain an intensity of reflection that seeks to devise longer term commitments to social change "unto the seventh generation." By means of ethical action, we can invigorate our relations with one another as we refine our shared ethical sensibility to co-create the world we seek. We support increased networking and information sharing among Societies to achieve this. New members love to see Societies doing things, or so it seems in BSEC and NYSEC.
We support those approaches such as non-violent communication, (NYSEC, northern Virginia, Brooklyn) Appreciative Inquiry (NSC) and other modalities that work to stimulate greater dialogic skills in the very process of ethical action engagement. We all can read intelligent critique and we need to, but for growth and development, we must become the change we seek. We acknowledge the AEU for passing all those Resolutions that carry within them the opportunity to practice this forward style of social change as we take advantage of our nations efforts to live into democracy. We recommend using more of the already existing AEU Resolutions to begin the process of local community reflection that will precede ethical action initiatives.
Alban Institute Recommendations from an outside consult with one local Society as adapted by the American Ethical Union office.
Daniel Goleman, Working with Emotional Intelligence, Social Intelligence; the New Science of Human Relationships
Kouzes and Posner, Leadership the Challenge, Jossey Bass, Wiley Prints, 2002
Gilbert Rendle, Leading Change in the Congregation, Alban Institute Publication, l998.
Monica Sharma et al, "Leadership for Results," UNDP, HIV/AIDS Group, 2005; Ions Magazine, "Conscious Leadership at the Crossroads of Change", August 2006; , "Personal to Planetary Transformation", Kosmos Journal, May 8, 2007
Margaret Wheatley, Ions Magazine, "Dreaming the World", August 2003. Leadership and the New Science Interview, 2006;
On the Internet:
Servant Leadership blog Leanne Hoagland-Smith, Why Leadership Development Must Include Empathy, Ezine articles.
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