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Here’s to the Dispassionate Leader!

Leaders need to be dispassionate — at times!

I’m a champion for leaders leading with passion. Hearts fully engaged. Leaning forward. Willing to take on the “uphillness” of holding out the Mission of God. Helping the people of God align their hearts and activity around God’s vision and not condoning the simple drift to lowest common denominator of comfortability.

Because without passion there’s little capacity to sustain…

  • When new directions get hard…and they will.
  • When promised payoffs from transitions are tardy and the muddled middle ensues. 
  • When people become quick to criticize and announce they never condoned such course from the start.

Gail and I are both passionate leaders.

So it is a bit counter-intuitive to raise my coffee cup or my wine glass to dispassionate leaders. Carly Fiorina tipped me off to its importance.

Congregations need dispassionate leadership that can…

  • See reality for what it is.
  • Recognize our position on the wrong side of the congregational life cycle curve.
  • Admit the old vision is “old.”
  • Propose or make tough choices with staff or strategies or budgets.

I can play the role of dispassionate leader, but I usually need someone to be the dispassionate voice in my own leadership life first. For example…

  • “Unbelieving people aren’t coming through the front doors anymore no matter how good you preach.”
  • “Our multiple campuses aren’t working like they were.”
  • “I know you’re impressed with the skill set of (staff person) but are you noticing the way she/he ‘shades’ the truth and signals character compromise? Be warned. A problem is on the way.”
  • “You’re neglecting your marriage for the sake of a ministry ‘win’ and your own selfish need to signal a success.”

I have not always warmly welcomed my dispassionate truth tellers.

It’s like Jethro with Moses, saying:

Exodus quote

No negative Nellie. Just a compassionate speaker of truth.

Oftentimes when dispassionate truth tellers lean forward in congregations to speak they elicit emotional responses!

  • Maintain the past.
  • Stick to what we’ve always done.
  • Serve ourselves rather than deny ourselves

So, if Jethro was whispering into your ear…

  1. What would he say to you?
  2. What truth would he point to that you or your leaders have been pretending doesn’t exist?
  3. What would it take to act and not wring your hands?

Unfortunately, most leaders and most congregations wait too long and act too late and suffer the severity of consequence. Listen to your dispassionate leaders and move forward in action.


Rev. Dr. Jock Ficken

2 Responses

  1. Sarah Greiner says:

    Thanks Jock, I’m learning that I need truth tellers around me to point out blind spots and bring my optimism down to earth.

    It’s never easy to hear but I’ve got a few tricks that help.
    -prepare my heart and mind ahead of time.
    -the truth teller is someone that has my back and loves the mission
    -the feedback is very specific with examples

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