What I've Learned About Leadership
My family and friends tell me I'm a bit of a control freak. I'm also a perfectionist, and not surprisingly, the person I'm hardest on is myself. I don't think I was wired this way. I've taken the Myers-Briggs as well as the Enneagram. My Myers-Briggs is ENFP, which is loose and fun loving. My Enneagram is a 7 with a strong 2 and 8. My desire to control comes more from my family of origin. I'm the adult child of an alcoholic and also child of a manic depressive. I grew into the role of family hero. So, if things need to be done right, you can count on me. I have a strong sense that if I don't hold things together, they will fly out of control. This is the reason, I believe, that I love improv. For someone who always feels responsible, it's great to get on stage and let go.
The number one rule of improv is that it's not about you, it's the team. Rules such as "Yes, and", "follow the follower", and "make your partner look good" are various ways of saying "let go." In improv you have to let go of the need to be right or in control. It's not your scene, it's the group's scene. Together you co-create something better than you could have thought of on your own. It is non-linearity thinking. Linearity is a mathematical concept that says the whole is equal to the sum of its parts. Non-linearity says the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In improv there is no set leader. Leadership is fluid and can change based on the needs of the scene. Follow the follower means "don't control, go with the flow."
In organizations, however, there is usually a designated leader. It may be your boss, a manager, the project leader, the rector of a parish, or a committee head. I've been in meetings where there is no leadership, its not fun. Someone has to be in charge. In charge, however, doesn't have to mean in control. Sometimes the best leadership involves stepping aside occasionally. True leadership is not about getting people to do things your way, but about bringing out the best in everyone to come up with the best idea or solution. True innovation is rarely generated through one person's individual effort. Innovation takes everyone giving their best while not worrying about whose idea is more important. All ideas are important and lead to the best possible outcome. You take what each person brings and build on it. (Yes, And)
This is a lesson I didn't learn easily. As the "church professional" who studied church grown and management, I knew what we "should" do. I didn't always listen, I lectured. If I had used the skills of improv more often, I would have been more successful in helping my congregations innovate. Oh, in my career we did plenty of innovative things, I wonder though how much better it could have been if I had let go and followed the follower.