The Paradox of Postmodern Leadership By Dann Pantoja P aradox. A statement of truth that seems to contradict itself. In his book, Global Paradox, John Naisbitt defined it as "a statement of formulation that seems contradictory or absurd but is actually valid or true." He used an illustration from architecture to clarify his point: "Less is more...the less you clutter a building with embellishments, the more elegant it can be, the greater the work of architecture it can be." Naisbitt believes that we live in a global paradox of the 21st century: "The bigger the world economy, the more powerful its smaller players." Paradoxical thinking is new to the postmodern categories of the business environment but not to the Christian community. The Gospel has been operating in an environment of paradox. Look at the following examples: The Universe is both spiritual and physical God is One in three persons Jesus Christ is true God and true Man The Human Being is both body and spirit The Scripture is the Word of God, written by human beings Believers in Christ are righteous but not perfect The Kingdom of God is both present and future Servant-leadership is one of those paradoxical concepts in the Bible. Jesus Christ is the ultimate model of a servant-leader (Jn. 13: 1-17). While claiming to be the Supreme Authority in "heaven and on earth" (Matt. 28: 18), He rejects position power as the basis for leadership in the Kingdom of God (Matt. 20: 20-28). Servant-leadership is symbolized by the throne and the towel. He knew his cosmic authority: "that the Father had put all things under His power" (Jn. 13:3). That was the throne-symbol. Because of that ultimate sense of security, He was able to humble Himself to "wrap a towel around His waist" like a lowly servant, "to wash his disciple's feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him" (Jn. 13: 4-5). That was the towel-symbol. MY JOURNEY IN PARADOXICAL LEADERSHIP The Lord has been teaching me at least seven practical insights on servant-leadership. Like hiking the mountains of British Columbia, these lessons are difficult, at times painful, but fun! Here are the paradoxical lessons on servant-leadership that I'm beginning to learn: 1. Leadership Skills & Management Capability. Should I lead or should I manage? God has gifted me with the people-and-vision skills that produce leadership. But more and more, I'm finding that I also need to develop managerial and technical skills that enhance operations. Moses was a leader who also learned to be a manager (Ex. 18). Nehemiah was a manager who learned to be a leader (Neh. 1-13). The Moses-types like me can produce the best strategy in the world, but if it is poorly executed the whole strategy will be futile. On the other hand, Nehemiah-types can have a superb implementation of the wrong strategy; this may lead to an orderly destruction. I need to learn Nehemiah's capability, or at least, I must surround myself with the best Nehemiahs. 2. Creative Heart & Disciplined Mind. Should I be creative or should I be analytical? My father trained me to be an entrepreneurial leader. I can still hear his words: "Be a free-thinker!" "Fly like an eagle!" He was right. This attitude helped me in my church planting and development ventures. This is the reason why I am enjoying the waves of postmodernity. My father, wittingly or unwittingly, prepared me for it. But at WavesChurch, I have to be very creative and at the same time I have to make budget, adhere to government’s charitable society laws and be firm in leading our personnel to adhere to those relevant laws. 3. People-Oriented & Productivity-Driven. Should I be people-relational or production- rational? I love people. I love working with people. I love shepherding them. I love to encourage them. I enjoy contributing to their growth and development as human beings. I get energized when I'm surrounded by people. But I also need to lead the people working with me to contribute 110%-productivity in the accomplishment of the task mandated to us by God and His people. 4. Earning Trust & Implementing Change. Should I spend time earning trust or save time implementing change? Earning trust means understanding the value of people -- their memories, their contribution to the movement, their view of what is important, their perspective of significance and meaning. This takes intensive, disciplined listening. Successful change-agents usually find a "springboard for change" in people's memories and value-systems. Most of my financial supporters in this postmodern church-planting ministry are from traditional Chinese churches. One of my major supporters, Eleanor Sy Tan, is a very successful realtor in Richmond. She remembers a very innovative young theologian who led her to the Lord. She sees Waves’ ministry as a needed innovation. So, she decided to be our partner in the vision of planting churches among the postmodern people. She believes that in order to reach the unchurched, changes must be done in evangelism and discipleship processes. But she keeps on telling me: “Your worship service is chaotic. I can’t concentrate! Why do you have to meet in a tea house? Why do you allow your people to have tea while you’re preaching? Would you like me to arrange a descent place for you to meet? Why don’t you have bulletins?” She decided that Waves is not for her. And yet, she continues to support me prayerfully and financially. She continues to introduce me to her business community to support Waves financially. She continues to arrange my speaking engagements among Chinese churches with a clear mission: “They need to change! They’re too traditional!” My wife and I are blessed to have this woman as our major partner. We love her very much. 5. VisionStability & ChangeFlexibility. Should I set my eyes on the vision or focus my sight on the immediate task? An organization without a vision is like a ship that is well-kept, well- maintained, well-managed, and well-financed but without a clear destination or direction. However, I am learning that this vision of planting postmodern churches will only be effective when the yearly, monthly, and weekly goals are efficiently-managed, implemented and evaluated on a moment-by-moment basis. Yes, moment-by-moment evaluation. Day-to-day is not good enough. Weekly evaluation is too slow. Monthly evaluation is suicidal. Quarterly evaluation is dead. Effective leaders look at the horizon with bifocal lenses – VisionStability and ChangeFlexibility. 6. The Initiator & The Team Player. Should I initiate or should I wait for my team? I will never forget a fellow leader’s reminder using a battle-picture of a military leader: "Dann, be careful not to go too far ahead of the people who follow you. They might mistakenly shoot you as the enemy." I must initiate in doing the right things. At the same time, I must wait for my team in doing things right. I must search for excellence in my personal accomplishments but always with respect to the team's objective, and with an attitude of interdependence on my team-mates' gifts and skills. 7. Ministry Expansion & Cost Containment. Should the ministry output be determined by the proposed budget, or should the budget be determined by the proposed ministry output? A story was told about an accountant who saw a man carrying a coffee mug on which was printed "Budgets Are For Wimps." "Where'd you get that?" the accountant asked, hoping the man would tell him a nearby shop had them. But no: "My boss had them made for us." "He a marketing guy?" the accountant asked. The man said: "How did you know that?" Church planting team leaders like me are similar to marketing directors. We have the tendency to expand our ministries -- the production and distribution of our services. The immediate market- focus of WavesChurch is to prepare and coach our people to make disciples of Jesus Christ effectively in the context of postmodernism. Our ultimate market are the Unreached People Groups of the 21st Century world. CONCLUSION The paradox of postmodern leadership is not an “either/or thinking.” It is “both/and thinking.” This paradox is the reason why servant-leadership, despite the pain and hardships inherent in it, is a journey that is full of joy and gladness. The paradox of servant-leadership is relevant and needed in a postmodern society. In the end, the ultimate picture of paradoxical servant-leadership is Christ's suffering and death at the cross and the glory and majesty of His resurrection. What a beautiful paradox!