For many years, the ideal of a pastoral leader was a “Chaplain”. A pastoral care-giver, who prayed, taught the scriptures and administered rites of passages. Churches built sanctuary’s and chapels in the middle of town. In a Christendom world where the purpose of the church was to be “religious service providers”, being a chaplain was an important and necessary role.
As culture began to change, the church took on the role of meeting the felt needs of people who had left behind or looked beyond the church and faith. The church became “life services providers” offering healthy recreational opportunities for kids, marriage enrichment classes, groups for support and social needs. Downtown churches sold their chapels and sanctuaries, moved to the suburbs and built “campuses” with gymnasiums and coffee shops and bookstores. This rich amalgam of services needed leaders who were not only preachers and pastors, but administrators and fundraisers. The Chaplain gave way to the CEO.
But if the world is shifting again and the decentralized network is once again (See The Acts of the Apostles for an early version of this model!) the most effective means for being a witness for fulfilling a mission statement, than a new type of leader is necessary.
And this, of course, is where the subtitle of Brafman and Beckstrom’s The Starfish and the Spider is terribly misleading. No matter what the cover says, a hybrid-starfish network is certainly not a “Leaderless Organization”. And even the authors admit as much:
“Managing a decentralized network requires someone who can be a cross between an architect, a cheerleader, and an awestruck observer…At their best catalysts connect people and maintain the drumbeat of the ideology.” (p. 207)
In the last post, I discussed the importance of “shared values”, what Brafman and Beckstrom call here the “drumbeat of the ideology.” This responsibility cannot be overstated in a decentralized organization. If Leaders do nothing else, they must protect, preserve and promote the shared values of the organization. If this “intelligence” is lost, the organization dies.
However, there is more to decentralized leadership than being a “custodian of values.” And in a healthy “hybrid-starfish” it actually takes two types of leaders. Sometimes they are found in the same person, often they are not. But the partnership between “Catalysts” and “Champions” is the key to an effective “hybrid-starfish organization.”
In the words of the authors, “Catalysts Rule.” Catalysts are those who inspire new ideas, (“A catalyst develops an idea, shares it with others and leads by example.” p. 94) connect people, form circles, (“Circles don’t form on their own.” p. 93) and then usually fade into the background. (Mary Poppins is a catalyst.) She changes the family that enters and then flies away. Catalysts are restless, contagious, curious souls who see possibilities within possibilities generates ideas, leads by example, gives away the ministry and fades into the background eventually.
But as important as a Catalyst is, even they need a “Champion.” While Catalysts are visionaries, Champions are implementers. Champions take the ideas and vision of the Catalysts and make it stick, they “sell” the vision, they insure its survival and they usually stick around (Think Maria Von Trapp instead of Mary Poppins). While Catalysts are natural connectors, Champions are natural promoters. (“A champion is relentless in promoting a new idea. Catalysts are charismatic, but champions take it to the next level.” p. 99.)
Together they create the leadership center for the ultimate goal in a decentralized system: Networks of healthy, engaging, growing, mutating circles of shared values.
Now here is the most important thing: neither Catalysts nor Champions are CEOs. They don’t fill the roles they fill because of position, power, prestige, but because of personality, passion, and purpose. They are not necessarily the people at the top, in fact, they’d prefer if there wasn’t a top. But make no mistake, if there is a healthy network, it is usually the work of a catalyst and champion.
So what is pastor to be?
Chaplain? Yes, at times. We add value to the network with our particular skills and training. When people need us to be a preacher, teacher, care-giver or convener of rituals and services, we offer them. CEO? Yes, At least in a few of the roles. But less than we used to be. In a truly HYBRID-starfish organization, that is both strong and healthy there will always be some need for fiduciary responsibility, administrative savvy strategic initiative, generative thinking and a public face for the organization. Catalyst? Again, yes. Serving as “architects,” “cheerleaders”
and “awestruck observers” connecting people and maintaining the drumbeat of ideology.” But I believe that the very best Catalysts in a healthy organization are visionary lay leadership that arises from the ground up.
I contend that for the health of the organization, a pastor has to function most often as a Champion. When the pastor functions as a champion, the catalysts emerge. The organization becomes “catalytic”, the whole environment nurtures creativity and innovation, while resolutely reinforcing the SHARED vision and values.
Being a Champion Leader is where I will pick up this series next post.