Friday, July 26, 2013

called to disrupt

Lately I have been considering the role of leaders in disrupting the status quo...when does one decide to do so? when is the right time to do so? and what is the end result that would make the disruption worth the cost?  Leaders are the ones who ask the hard questions...Leaders are the ones who always believe things can be better...Leaders believe they can make things happen (and often have the resources to do so)...Leaders are seldom satisfied with the status quo, especially when that status quo is harmful to others and the organization.  So when is the right time to stand up, speak out, and disrupt?

Being Lutheran my entire life, I grew up learning the story of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg because he believed it was time for a public debate on what the church believed.  He had done his homework...he had talked with others...he had contemplated the outcomes...and then began to disrupt the status quo.  Because of his actions, he was brought before the Council and asked to recant what he had said and written.  His famous line still resounds in my head: "Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise.  God help me."  And with that, a reformation was birthed that changed the church...and the world.

Many, many, many years later, an aging woman was tired...tired of the long walk she had that day; tired of the way she had been treated for many years; and tired of a system that dehumanized black people.  So she sat down in the front of the bus.  Rosa Parks was so tired, she chose to disrupt the system.  Unlike Luther standing her ground, she sat down and refused to move, despite the pressure of those around her.And with that simple action, a movement was birthed that changed her life, changed the life of her fellow travelers, and changed the life of this nation.

Disruption is difficult, for the following reasons:
  • it puts one out of their comfort zone
  • the end result is unknown
  • it could lead to loss (income, friends, life)
  • it takes an extreme amount of courage
  • others may not follow
  • it is often not seen (at least in the present moment) as the right things to do
  • people will brand you as a trouble maker
  • it is sometimes difficult to put into words (even when you know it is the right thing to do)
So when is the right time for the leader to stand up (or sit down) and disrupt?  I do not know.  It might be when you have collected enough evidence to know that a continuance of the status quo can only lead to might be when enough people have had may be when danger lays ahead and someone has to may be when you are so angry that you have to do something...and it may be when you are so tired that you can do nothing else but disrupt.  My encouragement to you (and to myself) is to tread carefully, gather the facts, wrestle with the idea of whether you are disrupting for your own good or the common good, gather a group to join you if possible, and then act.  And when acting do not look back, because the disruption will have already begun and there will be little you can do to start again.  

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