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Loss of faith in a world of competencies

19 December 2014

The Green report sets out from the wrong place, argues Keith Lamdin

NEWS about the Green report and Dean Percy's reflection (News and Comment, 12 December) raised an interesting response at Sarum College which, with others, was invited to tender for developing leadership training for bishops in 2011.

Having worked on leadership training in the Oxford diocese over ten years, I invited two lay colleagues, whose leadership development experience was in the commercial and the charitable sector, to join me. We were appointed to collaborate with Waverley Consulting.

There were six of us, all Christians: one priest, and the others working mainly in the corporate sector, delivering leadership development at the most senior corporate level.

It is worth being clear about what we were asked to tender for. The commissioning document highlighted:

• the exercise of leadership in complex and ever-changing environments, including emerging models of ministry, diminishing budgets, and a world that increasingly sees faith as irrelevant;

• the need for bishops to be expert relationship-builders/sustainers - to build and work in, with, and through teams of lay and ordained colleagues;

• finding ways to develop emotional intelligence to sit alongside highly tuned general and spiritual intelligence;

• equipping bishops for their extra-diocesan ministry as leaders in the public square.

Compare these with the competency framework in the Green report, and you will notice significant differences as well as similarities.

OUR programme started with the idea of vocation, and threaded worship and Bible study throughout. A central idea was that each bishop was uniquely called to be his own fullest expression of his vocation in the context in which he found himself.

Our task as trainers, therefore, was to help bishops realise the needs of their context, take hold of the call of God to them with their particular gifts, and to shape some learning and development goals that would enable them to be as close as possible to what God wanted in that place.

I want to argue that this matches the best contemporary thinking about senior-leadership development, besides being both theologically and spiritually congruent with the ecclesiology of the Church of England. Read Goffee and Jones, for instance, in their Why Should Anyone be Led by You? (published by HBS). Goffee and Jones focus on the idea of the unique shape that each leader has, and the need for authenticity to emerge from that shape or even misshapenness.

The Faith and Order Commission (FAOC) has also reported on senior leadership. Green makes no reference to it, even though FAOC was commissioned by the Synod. This report, which I also worked on for a short time, comes up with the phrase "faithful improvisation". The Green framework starts from a place called "organisational goals". This is the corporate world par excellence, and the industries that adopted this mindset, such as banking and oil, have hardly served us well recently.

Once I, too, believed in the world of competencies. I now realise that the view that change and development can be driven by a top-down, "corporate culture" programme is a dated, failed modernist view. Very few contemporary organisations believe this any longer.

A careful study of the proposed training programme shows bits and pieces bundled together to fit the framework. Why, I wonder, do we not believe that a healthy church organisation is shaped by worship and prayer? Where does one fit holiness into such a grid? What is more troubling still is that the report believes that this is a "complete set" of characteristics.

There is much that is excellent in the report, and the release of significant sums of money is to be welcomed. I am glad that what we did on charity money is now owned by the Church Commissioners. But what hurts is the phrase: "Evaluation found that these [existing] providers failed to provide sufficient challenge for a senior church cohort."

Our evaluation, carried out by external evaluators, never mentions this, and scored 7s and 8s out of 10 throughout. Three bishops on Lord Green's steering group were members of the cohorts that gave that feedback; two of them worked closely with me throughout one programme. They never said they were not being challenged enough.

There is little in the Green framework about an individual's character, except that he or she "owns difficult conversations". I certainly hope the new programme will enable them to do just that.

Canon Keith Lamdin is Principal of Sarum College, Salisbury.

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