October 7, 2009
Nancy Ortberg on the Seduction & Myths of Influence
Nancy Ortberg, founding partner of Teamworx2 and editorial advisor and contributor to Gifted for Leadership and Kyria.com, spoke on powerful themes inspired by her books, "Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands" and "Looking for God."
1. The Seduction of Influence
It's tempting to do it for all the wrong reasons. In our lives, there may be a tearing away of the seductions and a refining of the right reasons.
Word 1: Ego. We've brought the celebrity culture into our church and overlook people who are so like Jesus. We attribute more to up-front people than we should, more to attractive people than we should. The solution is to live more deeply into our brokenness.
Word 2: Burden. We place on ourselves a burden in leadership--our numbers, the highs and lows of leadership--it's about power, control, and outcomes, and Jesus didn't talk fondly about any of those things. Free leaders--free of the need for certain outcomes--are the best leaders.
2. The Myths of Influence
Myth 1: "There are no limits to my influence." No matter how much I want to influence and shape someone, though, the reality is that there is still space between us. The best thing we can do is to plant seeds, to put the truth and grace out there, and let God work in the other person over time. Parker Palmer talks about the tragic gap: we live between the potential and the reality of what we are. It's painful to live in that gap.
Myth 2: "Be like me." Saul dresses David in his armor, but Saul is a warrior and David is a shepherd. David said, "I cannot go in these, because I am not used to them." He took them off. A great parent lets each child develop uniquely.
3. The Power of Influence
Good influence is deeply based in relationships. List the people who have most influenced you, and most will be people who personally invested in your life.
Principle 1: Reciprocity. I became the leader, following a hip young leader, of a ministry to postmoderns--and I was a middle-aged woman. After a few months, a staff member said to me, "Your meetings suck." He said, "When you first got here, probably because you knew you had an uphill battle to fight, your meetings were fantastic, creative. I don't know what happened, but recently, meetings have been so bad, we don't want to come." I said, "You're right." That was painful, but there had to be reciprocity--give and take. Older leaders have to pull back to let younger leaders do what they're called to do.
Principle 2: Authenticity. People will walk through fire for an authentic leader. We connect more deeply through our brokenness. As Henry Cloud says, "Failure is the norm" and if we can be honest about that, about our doubts, our seeking, our brokenness, we attract. Authenticity comes through suffering; we should not lead in the church until we have suffered.
What Nancy's session reminded me of was this wonderful interchange with Richard Foster and the late Henri Nouwen (from Christianity Today Library). The interviewer asked, "How can ministers accept their insecurity that way?"
Nouwen: ... Let me paint a picture. You're in a big room with a six-inch balance beam in the center. The balance beam is only twelve inches off the fully carpeted floor. Most of us act as if we were blindfolded and trying to walk on that balance beam; we're afraid we'll fall off. But we don't realize we're only twelve inches off the floor. The spiritual director is someone who can push you off that balance beam and say, "See? It's okay. God still loves you. Take that nervousness about whether you're going to succeed and whether you have enough money — take the whole thing up on that narrow beam and just fall off."
Foster: That's one of the great values of reading the saints. They had this utter vulnerability to fail by human standards.
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