The Blue Sweater…and Leadership

by vernsanders on April 16, 2010

I’ve been traveling a lot lately, and, at least for me, it has advantages and disadvantages.

I get to “get away” from the “daily grind” of things to do at the office, but my schedule is disrupted, and I can’t always get everything done that I need to.

I get to eat interesting things, which is both good (yesterday for lunch? Steak & Shake…last week for one dinner? Samba – a Brazilian steak house), and bad (breakfast in PHX yesterday: trail mix and a bottle of water).

Most of all, I get to think (if it is a driving trip) or read (if it is a flying trip). Which brings me to today’s blog…

For the last couple of weeks I have been captivated by The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World by Jacqueline Novogratz. She’s a Stanford MBA who left an international banking career to work, primarily in the microfinance arena, with the poorest of the poor, primarily in Africa. She was in Rwanda before the genocide, and has returned many times since, and just that part of the book is worth reading.

Eventually, though, she came to believe that the solution to poverty included a form of philanthropic investing called “patient capital.” I think that “patient capital” is a great model for the church, in that the return on investment in worship, program, and outreach, can take years to pay off. In these days of the need for “instant success” that can be difficult for a company, a ministry, or a church, but it is the “old fashioned” way…and the way to true growth/change.

In the course of reading the book, I was struck by a number of quotes, some of which, on leadership, follow:

“The most important skill needed is listening. If [leaders] don’t first listen, they will never be able to address issues fully because they will not understand them. Second, [leaders] should focus on supporting others to do what they already do well rather than running programs themselves. [snip] Finally, [leaders] should find innovations that release the energies of people. Individuals don’t want to be taken care of–they need to be given a chance to fulfill their own potential.” [quoting John Gardner]

“If you move through the world only with your intellect…then you walk on only one leg…If you move through the world only with your compassion…then you walk on only one leg…But if you move through the world with both intellect and compassion, then you have wisdom.” [quoting Maha Ghosananda]

“Leading is a lifelong proposition–and the people who seem least like you are usually the people you need most.” [quoting Unita Blackwell]

“Go to the people: live with them, learn from them, love them [and] start with what they know [and] build with what they have. But of the best leaders, when the job is done, the task accomplished, the people will say: ‘We have done it ourselves.’” [quoting Lao Tzu]

“I’ve learned that there is no currency like trust and no catalyst like hope. There is nothing worse for building relationships than pandering, on one hand, or preaching, on the other…I’ve learned that generosity is far easier than justice, and that…it is all to easy…to have low–or no–expectations for low-income people.”

“You need to build a vision as if you were building a temple. It takes a focus on that vision, many generations to build it, no single source of leadership. It must be lasting and it must be done for the people.” [quoting Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy]

Next time, some quotes about entrepreneurship.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.  Do these quotes resonate with you? Are they applicable to church leadership situations?

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