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Archive for the ‘Leadership Qualities’ Category

Running the Race

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Our parish is holding Vacation Bible School this week, with a theme of “Running the Race. Going the Distance.” The key Biblical passage is 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (NKJV)

The emphasis is, of course, on the spiritual life: characteristics of good athletes, a healthy spiritual diet, perseverance, focusing on the goal, and “the trophy.”

For clergy and parish leaders, however, this “race” always has some particular obstacles.

Obviously, there is the matter of personal spiritual life. The deceiver always lurks in the prayer corner to tell the priest, “You’ve already prayed today. You don’t need to do so now.” The deceiver sits at the desk, murmuring “But you’ve already spent time reading the Scripture when you prepared your sermon. Why not read something more fun?” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

June 18th, 2013 at 7:51 am

The Internet is Not the Problem

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“Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water.” -Luke 8:24

Like many other clergy in the Orthodox Church in America, I’m attending the 16th All-American Council. Also like many other clergy, I attended the first plenary session (or was it an episode of Oprah?) Monday evening. During the question and answer period that followed Metropolitan Jonah’s address and the responses from some members of the Holy Synod, the Internet came in for some rather negative criticism. (See AFR for the audio; time references below are for that version). Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

November 1st, 2011 at 6:30 am

Leadership Levels: The Problem of Illegitimate Leadership

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“And when Simon [Magus] saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Spirit.” -Acts 8:18-19

In a couple of articles I wrote not too long ago, I took up the five levels of leadership posited by Maxwell in order to discuss them in our own situation. Having done that, I should point out that no definition of leadership was given. There are numerous such definitions, but perhaps the simplest is the equation, “Leadership is influence.” However, this raises the question of whether such leadership (influence) can be had illegitimately. Maxwell’s five levels don’t address it.

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Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16 am

Leadership and Argument

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Among our challenges as Christians, one of the greatest is in navigating the tension that exists in the world of ideas. It has been my privilege to be at the Acton Institute’s Acton University this week. In one of the opening day’s sessions, Acton co-founder Rev. Robert Sirico related his recent experience writing a piece on the ever-polarizing Ayn Rand. Many of the responses to the article have been strident, but they only make Fr. Sirico’s point for him. (I’ll leave it to readers to discover his point for themselves.)

It is not the aim of this article to take up Ayn Rand’s defense, or that of Fr. Sirico, who is a polarizing figure in his own right. Rather, I want to make the point that Christian leaders need to be willing to enter into the world of ideas and to depart what is too often a world of caricatures. I come to Acton not because I agree absolutely with every presenter, but because it affords me the opportunity to hear presentations from those who capably argue their positions and to engage them myself. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

June 17th, 2011 at 8:19 am

Leadership Levels: Humility and Magnanimity

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Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. -Philippians 2:3

Blessings to all on the feast of our Lord’s Ascension.

Returning to leadership matters, I posted last time about Maxwell’s five levels of leadership. I had some questions at the end, but I’m going to ignore those myself for a bit, in order to develop some more thoughts on this topic. At this point, my thinking may diverge from Maxwell’s. Make of that what you will.

Careful reflection reveals that a leader at a particular level always has the option to lead according to a lower level. As a hypothetical example, a leader at level 4 (who owes his stature to the respect garnered by developing other persons’ abilities) can choose to lead as though he were at level 1, for example, in a fit of pique, ordering rather than requesting a subordinate or teammate or church member to do something, “because I say so,” or “because I am the priest.” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

June 1st, 2011 at 11:40 pm

Delusion-free Decision-making

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“[The devil] was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” -John 8:44

If there is but one absolutely critical need for Orthodox leaders in turbulent times it is for them to see things as they really are, free of illusion and delusion. This is true when leaders examine themselves as part of the life of repentance, but I’m not speaking solely of confession (although every Christian leader should regularly participate in that Mystery). Rather, an individual in leadership must consider his own state—his motives, his wounds, and his sins—in every decision and in every act.

The danger is to be found in the encounter with the sin of prelest. Prelest has no exact English equivalent, being variously translated as “spiritual delusion” or “spiritual deception.” St. Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807-1867) gives the following definition: “Spiritual deception [prelest] is the wounding of human nature by falsehood.”

Rather than commenting further, I’ll provide a couple of helpful paragraphs from St. Ignatius and Unseen Warfare. May we all be delivered from the father of lies and may all our words and deliberations be free of prelest.

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Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

May 13th, 2011 at 8:29 am

Electronic Communication: Some Reflections

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The role that email has played in the current kerfuffle in the OCA has prompted me to reflect on a number of aspects of how we (as Church) handle digital information, whether electronic mail, documents, parishioner data, or chats. I’ll confine my thoughts to email for now, with the possibility of an expanded version of this later on.

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Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

May 9th, 2011 at 11:39 pm

The Christian Understanding of Bearing False Witness

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“These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: … A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” –Proverbs 6:16,19

Christ is risen! Indeed he is risen! (Lest we forget with the hubbub over the past few days.)

No time for a lengthier article today (or for the next couple of days, in all likelihood). But, since some readers (well, one reader, I guess) have suggested that I have characterized the Truthers unfairly, I’d like to explain that my standard for bearing false witness is that of the Church.

That standard finds its origin in Exodus 20:16, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour,” a.k.a. the Ninth Commandment. Deuteronomy 19:15-21 goes on further, in establishing that accusations are made only “at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses.”  The point of the witnesses is that known individuals (more than one of them, so someone has to agree on something) in the community, with personal reputations to uphold, stand up and make their accusations. Rumor and innuendo are tossed aside in favor of faithful maturity. If there’s any room for doubt or misunderstanding, it’s better for no accusations to be brought than to risk a loss of credibility face.

Beyond that, the prohibition on bearing false witness achieves its fullness in the light of Christ, as explained  its fullness in the Christian profession given by St. Paul:

For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. –Romans 13:9-10

Thus, “false witness” cannot be reduced to “did what I say, technically, turn out to be a lie?” as the world would have it, but must be understood in terms of that and more. False witness is also found in attributing evil motives to others, in casting aspersions on our enemies’ character absent any proof, in making unsupported statements about others’ beliefs, and in misrepresenting what our adversaries say.  As I’ve written previously, avoiding false witness is central to those in leadership. We must seek to present others in the most honest and charitable light, not the light in which we want them to stand or the light that makes them look as bad as possible.

With that, I’ll close with something I’ve quoted before (see preceding link) because leaders really need to be able to answer righteously to this particular set of questions for self-examination before confession:

Ninth Commandment – You shall not bear false witness.

Have I told lies, or added to or subtracted from the truth? Have I made careless statements or spoken evil of anyone? Have I told any secrets entrusted to me, or betrayed anyone? Have I gossiped about anyone or harmed their reputation? Have I concealed the truth, assisted in carrying out a lie, or pretended to commit a sin of which I was not guilty? Have I tried to see the good in others rather than their shortcomings?

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

May 5th, 2011 at 5:48 pm

The Courage to Have a Face

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Insert Face Here

“He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool.-Proverbs 10:18

To elaborate briefly on the post immediately preceding this one, it is hard to overstate the role that anonymity played in the damage inflicted by Being anonymous allowed the writers at OCA Truth to receive information without revealing who they were, and to launch attacks with impunity against whomever they chose. The domain name was registered with a proxy, shielding the true registrant-owners of the domain from public visibility, likely requiring a court order to lift the veil of secrecy. Further, disabled comments, even though the site is a blog. Thus, for anyone to counterattack required any critic either a) to have his own site, or b) to post in other venues. Both options forced respondents to stick their heads up out of the foxhole, becoming ready targets for more attacks from The shill names used at sites like enabled them to lure others into revealing their objections.

In short, was a nest of snipers drawing out their prey with a steady stream of half-truths, innuendo, unsupported accusations, taunts (“C’mon Fr. Bieberdorff [sic]“), and invective. Worse, having been flushed out, OCA Truth has withdrawn two damaging posts with the excuse that the information disclosed falls under the seal of the confessional.

What kind of leadership is that? Cowardly leadership (whether misguided or malicious), facilitated by anonymity. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

May 4th, 2011 at 4:30 pm

The Entrepreneurial Mind

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Where to go from here?In his essay from a couple of weeks ago in the Wall Street Journal, Dilbert creator Scott Adams argues that business students (“B students” in his words) would benefit far more from classes in entrepreneurship than in the sciences, mathematics, and classics. While I disagree with the first paragraph (in the implication that some students don’t benefit from entrepreneurial thinking), the rest of the article has much to say about the value of developing entrepreneurial skills. I think an entrepreneurial mindset is absolutely critical for anyone in church leadership, clergy and lay, whether in an established parish or a mission.

With that in mind, it seems to me that there’s a one-sidedness in our Orthodox pastoral preparation, similar to what Adams suggests is happening with “B students.” It’s an imbalance that favors the spiritual and intellectual development of pastors at the expense of learning the value of financial sophistication, prudent risk-taking, leadership cultivation, conflict management, and the basket of talents commonly known as “people skills.” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

April 27th, 2011 at 9:56 am

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