When someone asks me (Owen) about Eldership in the Community I can find myself caught in a log jam of words, thoughts and a where to begin. The following extract from Dr Stephen Schuitevoerder not only avoids that log jam it also addresses the complex relationship between eldership, leadership and followership...
"How many times have we wished for wise leaders who are able to not only express themselves well but also make skilful decisions in each moment of their work? How often have we placed hope in a leader, dreaming that they will take the direction we have been waiting for, only to be disappointed by one poor choice or another? Leading skilfully is challenging.
All of us who have had the fortune of leading, and it is many of us at this moment in one way or another, whether as CEO of an organization or leader of a rock band know of the challenges of leading. It’s the complex task of juggling different pressures, opposing needs and directions, competing visions and limited resources and capacity. What we hope for in others, we struggle with in ourselves. And yet more than ever we need leaders, not just those who can lead but those who can lead skilfully, with wisdom, insight and awareness. Leaders who inspire others as much by what they do as to who they are. Leaders who can weave skilfully between complex demands in such a way that competing concerns are recognized and addressed. Leaders who are more than leaders, who are elders.
This developing of eldership seems to have little to do with position, wise leaders can emerge at surprising places in systems and organizations and often lead as elders in spite of their lower positional authority. Eldership also seems to have little to do with age, wise leadership can as be as easily young as old.
This book (The cultivation of the elder: the development of wisdom in leadership) is about this very development. It is a step by step pathway in developing greater awareness, of ourselves and others around us. And in this its about how we might cultivate eldership, and work as elders to become more skilful, become wiser, through insight into the complex activities and decisions we make each day, so that those who follow can tread more easily and learn from our modelling.
But this book is also about followers, it’s about the moments when a person in leadership disappoints us, it’s about our own ability to respond at this moment and how we can choose to ‘lead’ from a lower positional authority. It’s about the fluidity of leadership, and how we might each work in our own way with our own eldership irrespective of the positional rank we might have.
The role of elder at times is the overt leader of a system, but need not be the designated leader of a system. Eldership and wisdom can emerge from any position, and with this emergence lead through its wisdom. And the role of elder is not fixed, it shifts between people, at one moment this wisdom resides with one person and at another moment the wisdom shifts to another. It’s in the field or group, waiting for expression and finding its next most likely inhabitant."
Book available on Dr Stephen Schuitevoerder's website
These posts are written and curated by Hayley and Owen, founding members of the big room cic.