The light touch(2)

Thinking more about the way we do things in community, and most especially if it’s on you to lead it.

I wrote last week about the subtle, partial, fertile, creative light touch that achieves more than the all-spelt-out, big, heavy, full-throated approach. I think this is because the light touch respects people’s humanity. They can work stuff out for themselves. They don’t need to be infantilized. Dropping seeds into their hearts may at times be more productive – though less predictable – than taking them through the procedure manual.

The more you think about this, though, the more complicated it gets. You need to select the right leadership tool for the job. Here (making it up as I go along) are some.

  1. The routine procedure. Some things are just best approached as procedures to be learnt. They become routine, mechanical memory. For example, the crash team electrocuting the stopped heart, the pilot working through a preflight checklist. Mechanical memory (and its first cousin, tradition) embeds and even automates the proven learning of the past. It saves us having to think, which is exhausting and can be error-strewn or just not as good.
  2. The precision task. Related to the routine procedure, the precision task differs from it because it requires a deep understanding. A checklist won’t do. Somewhere in your head you have to carry a precise working model of the system. Chernobyl exploded when they powered-up a powering-down reactor, without knowing the detail. They thought it probably would be OK, these reactors are safe anyway, leadership was on their back and it was nearly goodbye to Europe. Apollo 13 came home safe because the main actors mastered the detail., and had room to contribute more than just obedience to orders.
  3. The judgement. Sometimes a situation just needs someone to decide even if they have incomplete information. As recipients we may bridle, we may chafe, it will be the wrong decision in small or large ways, but it will have been decided and we can all move on. That is why we elect politicians. They aren’t super-people but we pay them to make the call. Court judgements are like that, elections are like that, Brexit was like that: a poor decision but least a decision. We are spared the agony of not resolving anything. Now we can reset and go again.
  4. The light touch and now here it is again, part of the tool box, ready to be applied, creative, open-ended, unexpected, hated by the control-type, slow, requiring humility and an open hand, but a way to reach unexpected solutions to complex problems. The gospel is like that. Forget the religious clutter, says Paul, it boils down to faith working through love. Work things out from there. May it never be missing from the toolkit.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.