*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Forget big egos: look for potential

by
22 July 2016

Angela Tilby longs for a dash of humility among those seeking high office

IT IS depressing how many can­didates for political leadership in recent weeks have included in their pitch a sentence beginning “I am the only one who. . .” followed by a tedious list of their finest hours, passionately held values, and what they would do to achieve party unity, a good Brexit, hope, etc.

An attempt to sell yourself as uniquely qualified by your past experience to do the job you are angling for has become normal throughout the job market, and I suppose we should not expect any­thing better from those com­peting for public office.

Yet it tells us almost nothing of importance, except that the can­­didates are either inflated ego-boors, or believe that they have to pretend to be. Humility and modesty won’t get you anywhere. And the same is becoming true in the Church.

I have looked at quite a few applications for clergy posts in re­­­cent years when I have been asked to be a referee, or, occasionally, when friends have applied for posts, and have asked me to look at what they have said about themselves.

When you go for a church ap­­point­­ment, you get guidance notes these days, pitched to prevent your ever attempting to hide your light under a bushel. Modesty does not wash, although a few pious clichés about the guidance of the Holy Spirit don’t do any harm.

But what you are really meant to do is to rehearse your past history in the most glorious light you can conjure up, tailoring your story to match the job description and people spec. as precisely as possible. (So, you write eloquently about how your conflict-management skills over the Mothers’ Union deanery bien­nial theatre trip have equipped you uniquely to serve as archdeacon in the vibrantly infectious diocese of X, and hope that this is not trumped by another candidate who has tri­umphed in even more adverse cir­cum­stances).

Together with modesty and hum­ility, what is missing from the dismal process of making appoint­ments is any recognition of the importance of potential. I was taken on by the BBC as a very recent gradu­ate with almost no relevant exper­ience. I am sure I was a disaster in some ways, but I also brought some­thing new, and it was humbl­ing to be trusted to have a go. It said a lot for the confidence of my mentors that they were prepared to take the risk.

But today we are all risk-averse. And the result is that all too often we get the rather tired and defensive leadership, both in Church and State, that we have asked for — and perhaps richly deserve.

 

The Revd Angela Tilby is Diocesan Canon of Christ Church, Oxford, and Continuing Ministerial Development Adviser for the diocese of Oxford.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear below your letter unless requested otherwise.

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards

 

Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available

 

Inspiration: The Influences That Have Shaped My Life

September - November 2024

St Martin in the Fields Autumn Lecture Series 2024

tickets available

 

SAVE THE DATE

Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website

 

Visit our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

 

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)