Day: May 18, 2009

It’s as easy as ABCD…

pop_pyramidPraise is a powerful incentive. Is there someone you know who is rough and aggressive? My advice: look for the one moment in which they are gentle and make a point of praising them for it. Not just a passing comment either, but with detail about how and why it was good and the impact it had on others. In my experience that kind of praise will encourage increased gentleness in their life far more than staging an intervention about their aggressiveness.

So it really shouldn’t have surprised me that the same principles are employed in community development work. Instead of telling negative stories about what’s wrong with a community – poverty, drugs, selfishness – focus on the positives. Identify what’s good about your community. In the industry, it’s called “Asset Based Community Development” or ABCD.

The assets your community has could be environmental (like a beach or a mountain) or physical (like a shopping mall, a church building, or a nightclub), they could be skills (a couple of builders or counsellors), they could be events (an annual Christmas fair) or they could be intangible. Note them down – create an ‘asset map’. And get focussed on what good things you’ve got to work with. Don’t get stuck on trying to ‘fix’ what’s wrong.

The principle – working to your strengths – works for communities, churches, and people. I’m going to give it a go!

leadership and listening

Alexander the Great used to don the gear of a foot soldier and listen to his men.

Alexander the Great used to don the gear of a foot soldier and listen to his men.

I have always admired visionary leaders – the type of person who can get others fired up about a vision. In practice, though, it’s easy to think that being a visionary is about getting other people to do what you want them to. You have a brilliant idea. Leadership is about convincing enough people to agree and getting them to make it happen. Or is it?

The more leadership articles and resources I read, the more I’m convinced that leadership (especially in volunteer organisations like churches) is about listening. It’s not about getting people to do what I want them to do. Even if I have a good idea. Rather, it’s about finding out what they want to do and harnessing that in a way that serves the vision. I think there’s servanthood here: it means being humble enough to let go of my good ideas, it means giving people the space and permission to grow in their own gifts, it means helping them realise their own ideas. 

I still think a key part of leadership is communicating a vision. But it’s also about giving up some of the control and empowering people to find their own way to support that vision.