Leading in the midst of change



In this complex society and culture of constant change, leadership must evolve, adapt, become more sophisticated and embrace modern technology.

That was the message from Friday morning’s keynote speaker, Bishop Janice Riggle Huie of Texas, who prefaced her 2016 Florida Annual Conference remarks by referencing Sunday’s mass shooting here in Orlando.

Bishop Janice Riggle Huie. Photo by Lance Rothwell.

“We want to express our sympathy, our prayers and our support for the people of the Florida Annual Conference and especially, especially, for the LGBT and Latino communities” the Bishop of the Texas Annual Conference said.

 “We, like many of you, have been glued to our television and radios and we’re so aware of the devastation and loss that has been fueled, apparently, by hate and violence. Our hearts ache with you. Our compassion reaches out to you,” Bishop Huie said.

“It’s easy to see the world changed since a few years ago; it’s changed since Sunday,” and these changes have altered views about leadership, she said. “How do you lead change?” was her interpretation of leadership a year ago, she said, but “the more appropriate question for today is, how do we lead in the midst of change?

“What are the unique gifts that we people called Methodists bring?  What role are we being called on to play in working, co-creating with God to bring about the world that God imagines?”

As society becomes more complex, the more sophisticated leadership must become, she said. “So, we’re talking about leading in a culture of change. And that change increasingly is rapid, unpredictable and nonlinear.”

Citing examples of vast change in only two decades, Bishop Huie said the Internet we know today is only 20 years old, Facebook began in 2004, Instagram in 2010. “And just this week Microsoft bought LinkedIn for $26 billion. LinkedIn is 13 years old.”

There is good news:  “We’ve been here before. During the 18th century, England underwent a societal transition, shifting from an agrarian-based economy and culture, to an industrial-based economy and culture; it was a very disruptive time,” she said noting that it occurred in our nation in the 19th century.

“During those times of tremendous change and transitions it was the Methodists who stepped forward on both continents to provide leadership not only for the church, but also for the culture,” she said.

“This was when we started so many schools, colleges and universities, because we had a value that every child should be educated and have the prospect of a better future.” Methodists also built hospitals, retirement homes and community centers to teach skills so immigrants and the poor could learn skills to better their lives.

“These genes are in our DNA…as people called Methodists, we can have…prospects of a path forward,” she said. “What must we learn from our historic Wesleyan strengths to connect with what’s happening in the world around us today?”

“If we can imagine ourselves once again being clear about our purpose, engaging in opposable thinking, networking, innovating...that’s the role of leaders in a changing world. More than any time in the last 40 years, I believe the Holy Spirit has been pushing us Methodists into God’s future.”

The Bishop cited five concepts needed to lead into God’s future.

Purpose: We need to push to “think out God’s purposes for the world.”

Opposable: We need to embrace opposable ideas, not to be oppositional, she said. We know how to handle two things that look like they’re opposite, but need to realize they’re really opposable.

Networking: The primary way pastors and others around the world connect is through networking through the digital world, and to lead in the midst of change, we must be networkers.

Innovative: We must step up to the need to initiate and lead change.

Ecosystem: Huie championed recognizing that for one thing to flourish, many things must flourish—this embodies complex relationships that are diverse, vary in size, are sustainable and able to reproduce. “Re-imagine our church as an ecosystem rather than as a corporation,” Bishop Huie said.

Jeff James of the Disney Institute. Photo by Lance Rothwell.

Friday afternoon’s speaker, Jeff James, shared many of his corporate leadership lessons about creating world-class service that he believes are applicable to organizations like the Methodist Church.

Vice president and general manager of Disney Institute, James is responsible for the external business and professional development arm of The Walt Disney Company.

“You always have to continue to think about how the world is changing around you,” he said. “Fundamentally we believe values never change. What does change is your vision. You must stay up to date or you will not be around for long.”

Any organization “must be smart and healthy. I would say the same thing goes for your churches,” James told the group. “You must maintain a strategic focus on core business functions. Deliver on the brand purpose, consistently over time,” he said.

“We pay attention to all the details, always” at Walt Disney World and other Disney theme parks, aboard the company’s cruise ships, etc. Continuous improvement and attention to detail relies heavily upon customer feedback.

On that issue, he said, “Social media has leveled the playing field for all to voice their opinion at the same level as” media giants like CNN, the British Broadcasting Corp. or The New York Times. Ten years ago, a diner unhappy with a meal could only complain to the waiter or restaurant owner. “You have the ability to praise that restaurant or, conversely, if you had a poor experience, ruin that business for 10 seconds,” using today’s online sites that solicit ratings for restaurants and other businesses—even churches.

“I would say the same thing goes for your churches; social media plays a huge part in whether people like the experience or don’t like the experience, and now they have a voice.”

“Disney is special entertainment with heart. That works pretty good with churches, too,” he said.

–George R. Wilkens is a free lance writer based in Wesley Chapel.


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