When I was a young, new parent, I tried to “lead” my young eldest child by reading parenting books about discipline and applying said reading to my child. I did exactly what the book said to do but did NOT get the results the book promised. I followed the plan. It was supposed to be efficient and a way to get the desired behavior from my daughter.

What I got instead was increased frustration and an unhappy kid.

So, I threw away the book. I decided the best way to parent my child was to apply adaptive parental leadership. It was not efficient, but it was effective. My child was not some “problem to be solved.” She is a living and complex organism who needed nuanced approaches to correction. My anxiety and uncertainty as a new parent fueled my desire for a sense of control with my strong-willed toddler.

Systems Thinking views organizations as living organisms.

Rev. Annette Flynn

Similarly, church leaders want clarity and predictability amid the conditions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Feedback loops are a way to assist your church in moving forward in uncertain times.

Feedback Loops

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my approach with my child fostered an ongoing feedback loop: child behaves badly – try adaptive corrective action by posing questions – take action – observe outcome – continue by adding in new learning to next incident, and so on. This resulted in continual learning and improvement in my parenting skills. Feedback loops are “systems” that create the ability for an individual or organization to be flexible. They are simply learning systems that keep us from getting stuck in a rut.

Feedback loops are "systems" that create the ability for an individual or organization to be flexible. Click To Tweet

When embedded into the operations of your church, learning leads to agility and your church’s ability to be innovative and adaptable. Learning is one of 4 simple rules of leading an organization toward what is next.

Systems Thinking is the New Strategic Planning

Systems thinking is a new (evolved in the 1990’s) way of viewing organizations. In contrast to seeing an organization as mechanistic, like a clock, Systems Thinking (ST) views organizations as living organisms. The part of ST that deals with how organizations can be made more adaptive is called Systems Leadership (SL). SL is the combination of using Vision, Mission, Capacity and Learning to create organizations that can thrive in the anxiety and uncertainty of the real world.

This 45-minute video explains this so well I bought the the presenter’s book, Flock, Not Clock. Perfect title, for those who lead churches, right? I absolutely believe that systems leadership is the new way to move churches toward what is next.

Albert Einstein’s quote, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them,” is especially relevant for churches right now. Just as a mechanistic, one-size-fits-all approach to correcting my child’s behavior did not get the desired outcome, mechanistic approaches to leading churches will not work either.

Albert Einstein’s quote, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them,” is especially relevant for churches right now. Click To Tweet

I believe Einstein would have us consider new mental models — ways of thinking about and framing the challenges we face. Systems Leadership offers simple tools for dealing with the complexity facing churches.

Does this video give you new ways of thinking about how to lead your church through anxiety and uncertainty? Leave your comments below; it’s time that we all live into new ways of being.

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