Leadership lessons from the Synod of Cardiff

Wasn’t Friday night great? That is unless you support Wales!

At the final whistle my wife (Welsh – maiden name Morgan) turned to me and said: ‘Stop gloating.’ I replied: ‘I’m not, I’m just smiling.’

All this proves I suppose is that one persons smile is another persons gloat! Anyway, that’s not what this blogs about!

I am normally reluctant to draw parallels about leadership from the worlds of sport and, business. I once purchased a book, long donated to Oxfam, on the authentically Swedish leadership style of Sven Goran Eriksson. Then England starting losing.

I also remember going to a Willow Creek conference a few years back, where lots of celebratory business leaders were interviewed; leaders who, by and large, are now discredited.

So, I refer to Cardiff, and some lessons that we might learn with some trepidation!

But, I think there are lessons to be learnt and the first is this:

The England team that won, was not the team that the ‘manager’ Stuart Lancaster would have selected if all of the talented players at his disposal were available. As Stephen Jones wrote in this weeks Sunday Times: ‘Lancaster stumbled across his best team by accident.’ Serendipity demanded that Lancaster had to select from his wider, less obviously talented, squad. And, they got the job done.

So this raises a second question: Why were they able to get the job done? Again Stephen Jones reflection is worth listening to:

‘Where did the new thrilling style spring from? Was it all laid down in the playbook? I have a suspicion that, just as they gained from injury, they also gained from adversity. They were 10-nil down, Wales missed another chance to score a try, and the crowd were going nuts. And England looked white faced. Suddenly their options narrowed. They had to give it their most fervent blast, play with vast hearts and instinct. Suddenly a horribly laboured team looked like sprinters…..’

The reasons they were able to step up to the plate are expressed in semi-religious language. Look at the words in bold and, please lets make sure that we don’t negate the value of adversity and short-term failure. Let’s allow team to play the whole eighty minutes.

Perhaps as we, the Church, look at the issue of talent and leadership we need to recognise the limitations of an overly structured pre-prepared, playbook, approach. We need to rely on vast hearts and instinct, or put another way, character and the guidance of the Spirit. We need to understand that wherever else it springs from leadership overflows when vocation is fully alive. We need to trust and encourage the widest possible talent pool, and to recognise that our second and third choices may be equal to, or even better than, our first choice players. And, the we need to take one more piece of advice from Stephen Jones; the same piece of advice he offers to Stuart Lancaster:

‘Lancaster’s next steps are obvious. Take none (harder said than done for leaders often like to be highly active)……..to replace the incomers with the discarded ranks of good old boys and underpowered bankers (at this stage I need to resist a jibe!) of the early and middle eras would be a pitiful betrayal of the heroes of Cardiff.’

Are there occasions when we in the Church need to simply acknowledge that despite all apparent evidence we have the majority of the right people already in the right place and, simply do nothing but let them be the players that they already are?


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