loren Eric Swanson: Bob Buford, Leadership Network & the Medici Effect

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Bob Buford, Leadership Network & the Medici Effect

Learning about Leadership … Management as a Liberal Art

Thank heaven (literally), we seem to be getting over the idea that management only (or even mainly) has to do with getting an MBA and going into business to get as rich as possible as fast as possible. My travels the past two months have again convinced me that management has to do with the productive interaction of human beings who are committed to producing results in all sorts of sectors – in social sector organizations, in the U.S. Army, in orchestras, in megachurches and, yes, in business too. Leaders in each of these sectors have a lot to learn from their peers in other fields.

And another thing? My recent experiences make me believe that I can probably learn more from smart people in other fields than I can from digging an ever-narrowing tunnel to get the last bit of incremental knowledge in the field I have inhabited for years (translate that as “my comfort zone”). A really interesting book by Frans Johansson, called The Medici Effect, calls this “learning at the intersection.”

“The idea behind this book is simple: When you step into an intersection of fields, disciplines, or cultures, you can combine existing concepts into a large number of extraordinary new ideas. The name I have given this phenomenon, the Medici Effect, comes from a remarkable burst of creativity in fifteenth-century Italy.”

The last two months have meant a lot of travel for me -- someone who doesn’t have much patience for airline purgatory. But Linda tells me, “You have to go to learn,” and I learned a lot on these trips. By traveling to both coasts and to the Midwest, I have been with all kinds of leaders on their home ground.

Here’s one case (with more to come). In mid March, I found myself with an unconventional church leader, Mark Bankord. Mark is an asset manager Monday through Thursday each week and then, Friday through Saturday, he leads the new Heartland Community Church in Rockford, Illinois. Mark’s title is “Senior Directional Leader.” He is reinventing a centuries-old leadership paradigm for churches that says the top role has to be called priest or pastor and that the person who occupies that role must be mainly a public speaker or a pastoral core person. Mark is a bold and magnetic leader. My pastor friend Robert Lewis and I were “live” as speakers on a recent Sunday in Rockford, but, most weekends, the message is delivered on DVD by the likes of Bill Hybels of Willow Creek. Willow does five services – two on Saturday. Four thousand people attended the weekend I was there. Lay volunteers do everything else, including all the individual, highly personal touches. Heartland has hundreds of these volunteers and the church’s full time staff numbers 50. Three staff members are ordained; forty-five come from lay backgrounds.

This is happening all over the country. As large churches “go small” via small groups, new church plants, and multiple sites, most of the leadership is drawn from lay people who serve as cell group leaders, campus pastors, executive pastors, and all kinds of roles that used to be occupied by seminarians. As you can tell by the titles, most of these roles didn’t exist several years ago. Mark Bankord is a pioneer, ahead of most churches I know, and his is a model well worth thinking about.
Every megachurch leader I know tells me that leadership development is the major constraint on growing a church. Bringing lay people into working roles as either volunteers (“unpaid staff”) or paid staff increases the pool of recruitable “labor” a hundred fold. This is a major shift in the way churches operate as energetic people become more than spectators and religious events involve more people from more fields of knowledge and experience. The result is a richer mix, a Medici effect. For Mort Meyerson, Ron Steinhart, and my other Jewish friends who read these muse-letters – there’s no reason this idea can’t be done in synagogues too.
The central idea I have learned from Mark Bankord and others is that a leader’s job is to release and direct energy, not to supply it. There’s a wealth of talent just dying to serve as senior leaders learn how to transform latent energy into active. I have continued to learn that lesson at other intersections: from U.S. Army Generals at West Point; from orchestra conductors and jazz musicians; from micro-lenders serving in Africa; from YPO entrepreneur-types in Tucson; from social venture capitalists in Dallas; and, even, from a university president at Claremont Graduate University in California.
It’s been an active two months on the road. Next time, I will muse on what orchestra conductors, jazz musicians, and four-star U.S. Army Generals have in common.


At Sunday, June 04, 2006 5:02:00 PM, Blogger Tom King said...

An exciting idea. The struggling question I continue to come to is how to prepare these lay leaders to lead, not only effectively, but theologically in a sound way. Jesus seemed to take 3 years, 24/7 in order to get those 12 on His Way. And after 2,000 years of church, combined with the deconstructionalistic approaches of postmoderns, how do we keep integrity in the midst of all this empowerment?

I believe we must train, and our cell groups or church plants or house churches can become the seminaries of today. Now that really opens the door to many possibilities. Surely we know how many different opinions of Scripture are out there, and we know that Jesus really believes in love AND truth (Read His evaluation of the first churches, especially Pergamum and Thyatira, Rev. 2). So, it must be that we podcast and webcast different teaching series in order to equip the pastors who are to equip the lay leaders and fill in the gaps for the amount of knowledge they need to accurately pass on...which seems to take us all the way back to the first century practice.

But it will take time to think of our 'parishioners' as fellow 'pastors' in the making. This is not the traditional understanding. Tell me your reactions.


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