Helping Leaders Change Systems

Jul 27, 2017

I am involved in a national leader-training effort through my Lutheran denomination.  

Called “Natural Systems Academy,” it is based on Murray Bowen’s Family Systems research. It involves church leaders attending four years of workshops to learn how to help congregational pastors stay calm and thoughtful in the midst of anxious or conflicted situations.

Sound easy?

What’s easy for any leader in such tense situations is to react by getting defensive and losing emotional control. To not fall into such reactive patterns is very difficult because our emotional needs have been shaped by our families, including our position or role in that family structure.

For instance, as the fifth child among seven siblings, I have come to understand that I fit a classic description of the emotional makeup of a middle child – to over-achieve, sensitive to criticism, desire to be recognized. When facing challenges to these needs, I get defensive.

However, with some training or coaching, one can identify ingrained reactive habits and gain control over them by remaining calm, listening, and finding thoughtful ways of responding to people and situations.

When we do this, something remarkable happens. Others in the family or congregation or business will also begin to be less reactive and more thoughtful.

This is the nature of systems: A leader can change a cultural environment by changing herself. People respond positively to less anxious leaders. They come to know they are respected, listened to, and are thus able to find common ground among differing opinions.

I’m Connie Seraphine, and that is my perspective.