January 10, 2007
What Are You Waiting For?
Humans have found their vocal chords. Long silenced by the engineered anonymity of the Industrial Age, homo sapiens are now talking to each other at unprecedented levels. When we can connect globally by phone at the push of a button, when our e-mails can cross continents and language barriers in nano-seconds, when we can blog or pod-cast our most mundane thoughts to the rest of humanity or broadcast the home video of our cat?well, let's just say the world has changed. A lot. From MySpace.com to YouTube to Craigslist, who we are matters.
Yet who we are together - in conversation - matters even more. As we discover our aggregate voice, we initiate tremors way past 10 on the human Richter scale. No longer are we held captive, isolated, and essentially mute by government, academia, or corporate America. Even the media is programming around our newfound affinities. Witness Dan Rather's hard-learned lesson in 2005. Just a few hundred bloggers forced CBS to terminate him as a news anchor.
When one looks at how our old world was built, this shift is not surprising. Every one of the institutional world's identifying features - hierarchy, control, predictability, homogeneity, and compartmentalization - depended upon the constriction of conversation and relationship. But in a hyper-connected world, collaboration replaces hierarchy; control is no longer possible; predictability is shattered; diversity thrives; and flattened, webbed systems supplant labels and compartments.
Why should all this matter to talented, brilliant, savvy leaders who happen to be female? Let's just put it out there: Women tend to be really, really good at conversation. They often excel at relationship and foster connection without even realizing it. What's more, most women think in webbed patterns vs. compartments, and are able to function in situations that are unexpected and downright messy. Scientists are now telling us that those patterns reflect the way women's brains are wired. Amazingly, this "wiring" was viewed as "soft" in the modern era. Even up through the early 2000's, women's natural leadership bents have been considered non-essential or even detrimental to success. However, as the old command-and-control universe disintegrates (and yes, even in the church), the definition of effective leadership is shifting rapidly. Leadership is no longer about one person's vision and authority. It is now about one person's ability to release the talents of many. It is about influence, not power. And make no mistake: Influence has relationship at its core.
You may be on staff at a church or parachurch organization. You may have a college degree (or two) and have chosen to stay home with three children. You may be ministering in a 9 to 5 job and doing more ministry in your off hours. Whatever your situation, this new world is putting out its welcome mat for you. The door is unlocked. The lid is off the box. If you've been frustrated that you can't break through the system, now is your time. Because if you want to do something truly significant, you can create it from scratch out of your basement. You can start a blog that focuses on the needs of seniors. You can begin a MarthasList with the people at work. (How cool to have people trading stuff, opportunities, skills, and telling their stories to each other as they do it!) You can rally your neighborhood around an environmental problem that everyone just looks at every day and wishes would go away. You can interface government and religious agencies to begin an after-school program for kids in your community. You can join Bono's One Campaign and make a difference in Africa. In short, now you can be Christ with skin on in more places, to more people, than you ever thought possible. Some of you have been waiting what seems eons for the certificate, the letters, the plaque on the door, and - let's be honest - the male okay. What this new world means for you is that you don't have to wait anymore. You can lead from your strengths and you can lead right from where and who you are, right now.
Just one last thought: If you embrace the new world that is so-not-accidentally upon us, you will be in sisterhood with the women of a very old world. The women at Jesus' tomb didn't wait for permission. They went, they saw, they acted, they spoke. And the world was changed.
It's a new day. What are you waiting for?