Regular readers will probably have reali...

First published 8th October 2012

Regular readers will probably have realised already that I have very 'low brow' tastes. Not for me the leadership lessons played out in Tolstoy, Shakespeare or Cicero. I'm much more likely to want to find the hidden nuggets hidden away in the X Factor, Terry Pratchett and Radio 2.

Which is why I love 'Trollied' on Sky 1. This week's episode chimed very neatly with a session that I heard given by a renowned leadership expert, Patrick Lencioni, at the Global Leadership Summit held over the weekend (GLS is an annual, worldwide leadership event run by Willow Creek church in the States - well worth checking up on if you haven't come across it before). Lencioni was talking about the 6 key questions every organisation should ask itself, the first of which was 'What are we for, what is our purpose?'. He observed that, for some organisations, what they actually do is not what they are for.

For example, there is a paving company whose primary purpose is not laying driveways but is all about providing meaningful employment for unemployed men in the town where they operate. They would say 'if there were no more driveways to lay, we'd start painting houses because paving is not the reason we are here.'

This week's 'Trollied' perfectly showed a supermarket whose primary purpose is not to sell stuff but to create a place where the staff are loved and valued by each other as though they were family. When a new boss comes in who hasn't understood that implicit purpose and fires the incompetent but much loved general assistant and bullies the ineffective but much loved assistant manager, the staff begin a quiet revolt to reassert the core values. The General Assistant is brought back and the Assistant Manager is protected and cared for behind the manager's back. Core purpose goes deep into the heart of an organisation and its centre of gravity is very stable.

Lencioni glossed over the question of purpose for churches, asserting that 'it's obvious'. Is it? I'm not so sure. I go into a lot of churches in the diocese in my job and I suspect there are as many different ideas about what each one's purpose is as there are churches - some are primarily about providing non-judgemental fellowship, some about providing a peaceful space to be, some about actively doing good. Mostly the purpose is implicit and takes some rooting out.

But once identified, it's easy to see that the way that the church behaves, thinks, reacts etc is entirely consistent with its implicit purpose and that purpose is hard to change, even with a new leader and/or the development of explicit vision statements and values statements.

I rather like WH Vanstone's definition of the purpose of his church in the 1950's - 'to love God back'. Not 100% sure what a church with this truly at its heart would look like but I'd love to see it.

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