The last little while I have spent quite a bit of time thinking and talking about indifferent leadership. Indifferent leadership is not leadership that doesn’t care. Rather it is leadership that seeks to care more about the process than the outcome. This means that if I am exercising indifferent leadership I will pay attention to how every person who wants to speak can, I make sure all the information is presented fairly and positively. I fill tend the mood of the meeting. It is leadership that cares about doing the work before a group rather than focusing on work six steps ahead of the current work.
So, for example, if a group is discussing whether to set up a task group to investigate the feasibility of a project indifferent leadership focuses on whether a task group is necessary rather than on how the work will unfold and what that work will involve. Indifferent leadership is important for groups, committees, teams and meetings to have at least one person who will exercise indifferent leadership for the sake of the whole, so that the wisest possible decision is made.
Some of the attitudes necessary to practice indifferent leadership are:
A willingness to trust the group and the wisdom in the group and be neutral about the outcome.
A desire to help discern the will of God and the way forward rather than assuming you know what that will look like.
A clear understanding of the difference between the way a decision is reach and the decision is reach. In my experience this is harder than it sounds. Most of us, if we care about the group and it’s work, an indifferent leader constantly examines the process – what’s happening, how is it happening, are we discussing what we need to discuss right now or are trying to do work we don’t need to?
An acceptance that the group will not always choose to do what you thought they should have.
Some of the skills in practicing indifferent leadership are:
Being able to present all scenarios in a fair and neutral way.
Accepting that the only person I can change is myself so I work on my role in any meeting.
A capacity to be reflective in practice, to ask sometimes yourself , sometimes the whole group ‘what is happening , how could the process be happening better?’
Setting ground rules in meeting that support good processes. Rules such as we don’t say that won’t work we ask how can I make this better?
Being clear about your role.
Why does indifferent leadership matter?
It matters because most groups benefit from having people in the conversation who sit lightly with the outcome, who listen to what is happening and who are as interested in shaping the process as they are in achieving their outcome.
It matters because the will and way of God is most often know in community and communities need help to discern God’s will.
It matters because a good process can often lead to anticipated outcomes being improved by people who are willing to ask questions like ‘How can this be improved?’
Questions to reflect upon
Can you think of an example when you have seen indifferent leadership exercised?
What are the strengths of exercising indifferent leadership?
How might you develop your capacity for indifferent leadership?
By Sharon Hollis
Continuing Education Co-ordinator