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Incarnational Leadership

Posted: December 12, 2013 by Rob Voyle

All sustainable change is an inside job

In general the church does a very good job of celebrating the incarnation. Sadly from my observation we don't do anywhere near as well in terms of practicing incarnational leadership. And in many conflicted situations I have been invited into, the failure to practice the incarnation has been at the heart of leadership failure.

Jesus didn't come and inflict salvation on us,
He came and lived as one of us.

At the heart of the incarnation is the process of entering into and joining with the system so that change processes are an inside job. People will naturally resist imposed change, regardless of the change's merits, because its imposition is a profound disrespect or denial of the essential dignity of the recipients of the change.

When joining with a system we need to join with its life-giving core.Then we can make changes that grow the life-giving core.

If we can't value what is life-giving to the people we probably should leave and shake the dust of our feet. If we stay and spend our time judging them for their attitudes and actions we will just end growing their and our ugliness.

People won't change because we judge or hate them,
at least in the direction we would want them to change.

The incarnation, God joining with humanity in Jesus, is a profound expression of God's valuing of humanity. And all those who joined with Jesus, "received him" in John's words, or mutual valuing in the language of the Appreciative Way, he gave power to become the children of God.

Appreciative Tip

In my coaching of clergy engaged in search process I encourage them to ask everyone they encounter in the search process "What do you value about your congregation" and then to prayerfully reflect on the question: "Can I value what they value?" Finding a place of shared value is the essential first step of incarnational leadership.

Exploring what we mutually value has many other benefits. It is likely to result in positive emotion which research shows will open people to greater degrees of creativity which will enable both parties to explore possibilities rather than be stuck in current realities. This will set the tone for a more rewarding conversation regardless of its outcome.

If you would like to learn more about the Appreciative Way of being an incarnational leader I invite you to participate in one of the Appreciative Leadership training programs. See for a complete schedule of training events.

In the meantime I wish you lots of love to lead the people entrusted to your care and encourage you to keep asking:


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About the Author

Rob Voyle

Rob Voyle

The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle is a leader in the development and use of appreciative inquiry in church and coaching settings.

Rob's Approach to Training

  • Helpful: Training must provide practical, sustainable solutions for today's challenges.
  • Humorous: Creativity and humor go together as people enjoy new insights.
  • Healing: I create opportunities for people to experience transformational insights that lead to new ways of living, working, and being in the world.

>>   See more on Rob's
        Helpful, Humorous, Healing
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