Enabling Parish Leadership

Going with People’s Ideas

horizontal rule


One of the surest ways of enabling parish leadership is to go with people’s ideas.  Everybody comes up with ideas.  Not everybody gets a chance to implement them.

If you are a leader, you got there because had good ideas and you developed your experience by using them.  You know what works and what doesn’t.  You can tell a good idea from a bad one. You can get things done, and you can stop what inhibits getting things done.  Those qualities make you a good leader.

Sometimes, though, it may be worth taking someone else’s idea – an idea that you think is not the best.  You may think you know how to organize the parish carnival, how to reward volunteers, which textbooks to use, and how to arrange the office furniture.  You may know better than anyone else how to make things happen in your parish.  You’ve done it before.  You know how it works.

But when someone comes up with another idea, you face a dilemma.  Do you take it or reject it?  If the idea is genuinely bad, if you know it will not work at all, you owe it to the person and the entire community to say that.  Save everyone the grief.  Stop the idea in its tracks.

But if the idea works – even if it doesn’t work the same way you would do it – there are benefits to taking someone else’s idea.  Your way of doing things might be better, but someone else’s idea might work.  You may think it won’t work as well, but if it truly works, go with the other idea.

Often the people coming up with creative ideas are new to the system.  They lack experience.  But inexperience is not always a drawback.  Sometimes it is an opportunity.  New people – yes, even young people – have creative ways of looking at things.  Sometimes their ideas lack the perspective of experience, but often they bring the zest of creativity and a different approach that invites new life.

When you go with someone else’s ideas, you accomplish several things:

·                          You affirm the creativity of the burgeoning leadership in your parish.  You let people know that you value their ideas and you find their insights worth pondering.

·                          You give the inexperienced the experience they need.  You let them try something out to see how it succeeds or fails.  You let them accept responsibility for the project.  They will win approval from others, or they will learn from their mistakes.

·                          You develop a healthy sense of humility.  Yes, you have learned a lot in life.  Yes, you have your own set of insights to bring to this need.  But you also have a team you work with, and you need to develop future leaders with experience and creativity.

When people get a chance to try out their own ideas, they bring excitement to the project.  They also feel welcome to speak up again when opportunity strikes.

This article first appeared in ParishWorks: Idea Source for Parish Leaders and Decision Makers 7/9 (November/December 2004):3.

horizontal rule

Top of page