Friday, April 1, 2011

What do the bishops have to fear?

This week, the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church decided mid-way through their Spring meeting at Kanuga to suspend Tweeting from their meeting. The reason I heard cited was that this would allow the bishops time to reflect, discuss and do their work without the pressure of outside criticism, or something to that effect. As you can imagine, there was considerable disappointment, at the mildest, to condemnation, at the strongest level of reaction, to the Bishops' decision.

What do the Bishops have to fear? What do the Bishops have to protect? Whom are they protecting and from whom are they protecting?

From my perspective, this is yet another symptom of people of privilege and power, insiders, displaying their fear at sharing what they do, know and think with people outside the inner circle. We see this repeatedly in government and in the highest leadership echelons of both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. This fear is a meme that gets inculcated and reinforced in the few who are invited into the inner circle, and it is a meme that is difficult to resist.

This type of hoarding of information also speaks to a fundamental disdain for the people that those in leadership serve and lead, their constituents. These leadership cadres seem to believe that their constituents are not prepared, either intellectually, educationally, informationally, emotionally or otherwise, to receive spontaneous, unglossed news of what is happening in the midst of leadership confabs. In the instance of prohibiting live Tweets, there is also an underlying message of lack of faith in one's fellows, that they will not exercise good judgment in sharing information responsibly and respectfully. (Think about it: Bishops not trusting other Bishops.)

As one who sits in some of those hallowed halls of leadership, I am mindful of the fact that there are legitimate nuggets and even occasional volumes of information that must remain confidential, some for a short time and some for longer periods. Those items might include information that would compromise a lawsuit while it is still being litigated or cause a lawsuit to be engaged, intellectual property subject to patents and loss of competitive economic advantage, and personnel data, to name a few. But the number, volume and degree of those items are generally far overstated by overreaching management in many, if not in most, cases.

I acknowledge the fact that many critics of the inner circles of leadership use rhetoric that frames their arguments in dismissive, insulting and confrontational language, which is neither helpful nor responsible. However, I submit that leadership must be prepared to restrain their very human desire to respond in kind and by locking down their organizations.

A specific charism of leadership is that it must always take the first steps to invite dialog and collaboration in the development of goals and methods. After all, it is the leadership that holds the power, namely access to resources, money and numbers of people. Likewise, a specific charism of those who participate in the selection/election of leaders is that they must do their research with diligence, influence with effort and passion, and exercise ongoing oversight and participation to hold their leaders accountable.

Leaders need to get over how they look and sound. They're going to make mistakes, and some of those mistakes will be both public and egregious. How they respond to their mistakes and how they communicate about their mistakes and responses are what matters and what contributes to how they will be judged. Constituents need to take responsibility for their organizations and communities. The old adage about being part of the solution versus being part of the problem holds true here. Both leaders and constituents must be committed to ongoing learning, including from each other. When you stop learning, you die.

Belonging is not a free ride. Neither is leading.


PseudoPiskie said...

Thanks, Lelanda, for addressing my opinion of this so eloquently.


You're welcome, Shel.