Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Manipulation and leadership

I've got a hang-up about manipulation and the priesthood. Not only is manipulation bad anywhere, but my experience of communities riven by abusive priests has given me an abhorrence of it wherever I see it. And it can lurk in the most unexpected of corners, as with one late priest who got people to do what he wanted by the twinkle in his eye and charming smile. But that was still a gentle form of manipulation.
I had an interesting lunchtime chat yesterday with a friend who has loads of experience in the world of work, management and all that stuff. The subject of leadership came up in the context of priesthood. I said how one of the priests who worked with me in a previous parish took exception to my saying that I thought we priests were called to be leaders. The other priest said that this kind of thinking was old hat, pre-Vatican II etc. I tried to show him that what leadership means has changed, how we are meant to lead, but that we are still leaders. The priest wasn't convinced. 
However, I am more convinced of this than ever. My lunch-time companion shed light on all this by pointing out that management is a matter of keeping things going, but leadership is about helping the community to see ahead, discern the future, and enable and empower everyone to get there. I found that very helpful. The two of us agreed that we still have too many priests that put all the emphasis on management but do not seem to have grasped leadership. While talking about Vat II, and sometimes acting in an apparently freed-up style, in practice it's do what I say, because I say it.
My experience - and especially in my present appointment - is that time and effort invested in preaching the Gospel and trying to follow a model of leadership which is the opposite of manipulation, especially when sometimes it would be "easier" or "quicker" to slip back to the do-what-I say approach, bears fruit a hundredfold. For all concerned.  

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