Rosabeth Moss Kanter Crown Business 2006-02-28

Kanter, professor at Harvard Business School, stresses that principals, pastors, presidents, and leaders in any type of ministry must develop a conscious sense of accountability, collaboration, and inspiration that gives people around them the ability to withstand difficult circumstances and setbacks. Confidence, she says, bridges expectations and performance as well as investments and results. It serves as the balance between arrogance and despair and arises out of a history of how the organization has functioned in the past.

The leader’s personal self-confidence builds confidence in others through supportive team-oriented behavior. Then the organization begins to exercise confidence in itself, to reinforce its accountability. Then people outside the organization gravitate toward it.

Rapid leader turnover in any ministry organization does not set the stage for winning cycles or effectiveness. Instead it sparks losing streaks, escalating cycles of decline that erode confidence in the organization. People become mired in what Kanter calls “learned hopelessness,” surrendering to the timidity of mediocrity. They trap themselves in “doom loops” so that poor responses to problems actually exacerbate the problems.

Marks of a losing leader or organization, according to Kanter, are decreased communication, rampant criticism and blame, eroded respect, increasing isolation, inward-turning focus, rise of turf-guarding and small clicks, paralyzed initiative, dying aspirations, and contagious negativity.

What alerts an organization that turnaround provides its only option? Three situations: terminal illness, loss of external confidence, and/or normal life events such as the departure of a popular leader. Kanter offers several cornerstones of confidence including accountability, collaboration, support, and information.

Confidence, of course, should not be equated with arrogance. Arrogant leaders do not consider themselves accountable, do not work hard at collaborating with ministry teams but wish to be served, rarely understand how to support other leaders throughout the organization, and keep information “close to the vest.”

About the Contributors