Leading with Presence By Karen Spruill

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While reading in a devotional book, I came across some of the philosophy of Rabbi Edwin Friedman, who was also a specialist in family systems. I suppose I had seen his name in earlier textbooks, but the relevancy now is important. I have been thinking about the qualities that pertain to leaders (Government, church groups, workplaces and families). Problems about leadership inevitably come up in counseling situations and are part of everyday life for most of us. Upcoming elections in my country are a daily focus in the media.

How can I become a better leader for my Bible study group? How can I help a father with his children in a counseling session? How can I do a better job of relating to my own family members? How do I know who will make the best leader in my country?

Friedman had lots to say about the qualities and habits of effective leaders. His big emphasis seemed to be that leaders are to bring a strong sense of self and non-reactivity into their group. The leader’s “presence” involves confidence, poise, calmness and focus. Much of the same stuff that is needed when working with dogs, horses or small children! Friedman believed that wherever the head goes, the body follows. Sounds kind of like Jesus’ approach while He was on the earth.

Furthermore, some “red flags” when observing leaders are for those who: 1) interfere in the relationships of others, 2) constantly try to force others’ to one’s point of view, and 3) are not able to relate to people with whom they disagree. Friedman also added that good leaders work on their own maturity as the best chance of changing others. He advocated adapting to strength rather than weaknesses in the members around them. These leaders don’t allow whiny dependent people to call the shots. He recommended that leaders can remain calm by becoming curious and asking lots of questions, rather than giving advice. He noted that when leaders attempt to focus on responsibility by challenging members’ growth and maturity, they will be met with resistance and sabotage. You can count on that.

If you are curious about more of Friedman’s ideas, you can find his books for sale on the Internet. The Apostle Peter gave some ideas about leadership for church elders: “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers — not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (I Peter 5:2,3 NIV).

Questions for personal journaling and group discussion:

1. Who are your “flocks” right now?

2. How might you be able to adapt to the strengths in your group rather than weaknesses?
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Karen Spruill writes from Orlando, Florida. All rights reserved © 2011 AnswersForMe.org. Click here for content usage information.  

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