Inner~View #56: The Impact of Influence on Transformation

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Phil Miglioratti interviewed MaryKate Morse, author of Making Room for Leadership: Power, Space and Influence


book cover

Phil ~ What does the subtitle of your book tell us about your perspective on leadership?

MaryKate ~ Christians often see leadership as a package of character traits and leadership skills. You develop your character in Christ, and then you vision cast, teach-preach, strategize, evangelize, build and lead teams, etc.

However, leadership is more than being a good person and doing right things. Leadership is a social and a physical. It is social because others give you the power to influence them. It is physical because the group makes that decision after instinctively assessing their physical experience of you in their social space. The group then either invites you into power or closes you out. You can have the character and the skills but without the group giving you power, you are taking them nowhere.

And this can be tragic, because they will let you get things done for them, but they probably won't give you access to their beings for deep formation in Christ nor will they allow you to change much of their social system. I think this is the frustration that many pastors and lay leaders feel. They are good people, trying hard to lead, but nothing happens. On the other hand are leaders who take up so much space in a room that there is little left for others who want to be involved. Either way leadership is much more than character and skills.


Phil ~ We have all read/heard discussion about the role of power in leadership but what might we need to see differently about how this core competency??

MaryKate ~Without power there is no leadership. As Christians we think power is a bad thing, and we should avoid it. However, power is given by God to do God's kingdom work. Therefore, a primary leadership competency is using power well for the sake of others. This is true servant leadership accepting power and using it like Christ to serve others.


Phil ~ Space? What role does the physicality of the leader play in using that power for God's good? And ... what are some practical applications, especially in congregational life?

MaryKate ~ Two things first, our bodies tell the story of our power. If we walk into a room of strangers, these strangers have a visceral experience of who we are. This is referred to as presence. The group experiences us as belonging or not and as strong or not. Then secondly, the group instinctively decides in a short period of time whether they will pay attention to you or ignore you. They might be nice, but that's not the same as allowing you a voice in the group.

My book gives several practical applications, and I'll give a couple here, one that focuses on the individual and one on the group.
 



Phil ~ The church growth movement has pastors and church members using increase (more people, bigger buildings, increased budgets) as the sole measurement of success ... Agree or disagree? Influence should also be a mark of healthy leadership both on an individual level and a congregational level.

MaryKate ~ Today we are fairly agreed conceptually that more does not mean better. That doesn't mean we behave as if it were true. However, the outcome of responding to the gospel is becoming more like Christ. If we are not becoming Christ-like as individuals and as groups, then we are off track no matter which measurement of success we are using.

Influence is the power to affect outcomes. Since God created us to have purpose and care for others and the world, we are all to exercise influence. Whether you are a parent, a teacher, business person, mission leader, or student, each day you will affect the outcome of something or someone. The amount of influence depends on how much power you have and are given.

And yes, you can develop your influence factor, but you can't predict your influence impact. Impact depends on a combination of God's anointing-timing and a group's response to you. In the book I describe ways to assess your impact and then how to steward it. If you have little, it is your responsibility to come out of the shadows and get involved. If you have a lot, it is your responsibility to avoid being the sponge soaking up status and influence, but instead being the one who invites others into influence.


Phil ~ How can a leader use influence to change the culture of their congregation?

MaryKate ~
  Our sense of significance comes out of our sense of power. Otherwise, we fight or hide. A culture cannot be changed if persons are threatened or anxious. If this competency is addressed, I believe that the congregation will have the energy and openness for change.


Phil ~ Many of the leaders who will read this interview serve citywide collaborations. How can influence be maximized to effect a community-wide impact for the gospel?

MaryKate ~ Christianity has a bad reputation precisely because we use power to consume. We want to bring others into a particular kind of kingdom defined more by us than by Christ. It's often about our glory, our agenda and our assurances, and not Christ's presence, though generally this is an unintentional outcome. I think leaders are trying to do the right thing. But whenever, a leader feels aggressive, angry, passive, or anxious, the temptation is to use power to consume space for his or her purposes. Therefore, we are often seen as bullies in a sandbox rather than hosts at a generous banquet. Using power for hospitality creates a spirit of grace. Once grace is experienced collaboration is natural.


Phil ~ Apply the principles of influence for a leader who convenes other leaders. In other words, help us think differently about the form and function of our meetings.

MaryKate ~ Meetings are more important that preaching for influencing a group for healthy sustained change. Look at how much time Jesus spent with his disciples in small social settings. Meetings are the very center of transformational experiences, and we treat them like unimportant, boring necessities. In meetings we get up close and personal with each other. I see you and you see me. We have to work together. In meetings we learn about authentic servant leadership and the art of managing our bodies for God's glory. We learn about ourselves and each other so we can sharpen and focus our kingdom work. Meetings are not about crossing off agenda items, but about having a laboratory to lead more like Christ.

That means time is always taken in meetings to do the relational, emotional, and spiritual work. Power is talked about and examined and we are held accountable for its use. When bumps occur because of disagreements, broken humanity colliding with broken humanity, instead of dismissing or avoiding them, we take time to unpack and pray for insight and growth as a group and as individuals.


Phil ~ MaryKate, please write a prayer for the person who is ready to more fully understand the potential of their God-given, Spirit-empowering influence for the advancement of Christ's kingdom...

MaryKate ~ Creator God, fill my body with your power and your purpose.
Jesus Christ, give me courage and humility to invite others to your table.
Holy Spirit, make room in me for the fullness of Christ and protect me from evil for the sake of your glory and your kingdom. Amen.
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