I still remember when I first heard about the concept of “driving out fear.” It was 1987 and I was a Production Supervisor. The company for which I was working (Micro Motion, Inc.) was beginning to embrace the “Continuous Improvement Process” (CIP). Gene Perkins, the President of the company, had read the book Out of the Crisis by W. Edwards Deming. Reading this book and beginning to embrace Deming’s “14 Points” fundamentally changed Gene and his leadership style/method was never the same.
They were called Natural Work Groups or Quality Circles … teams of people assembled to work on process improvement. Deming writes, “Employee involvement. Production workers regularly participate in operating decisions, including planning, goal setting, and monitoring of performance. They are encouraged to make suggestions and take a relatively high degree of responsibility for overall performance.” They were to use The Model for Quality Improvement developed by Deming (and a few others). Basically the idea was to actually get the employees who were doing the work (consequently knowing more about how to do it right and what the problems were) to get involved in identifying the problems, deciding on the best solution(s), and implementing changes for the better.
In today’s world this concept doesn’t seem all that unusual. Or, does it? In order for this concept to work, according to Deming, the “culture” of the organization needed to change. In fact, it needed to be “revolutionized!” “Management” needed to change its methods. “Managers” needed to become “Leaders.” Management is about “control” and leadership is about “influence.” “Managers” threaten people with the fact that they can fire them –control– instead of creating a non-threatening environment that fosters open communication and involvement. An employee can actually “challenge” her/his leadership. What a concept!
Point number 8 on the list of 14 was “Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company.” What Deming was saying (and Gene Perkins was implementing) was that employees need to feel “safe” and “secure” in order to take a risk, make a suggestion, and really get involved in improvement. “Even a chief executive officer does not dangle the threat, implied or otherwise, of firing a subordinate. Instead, it is management’s job to encourage working toward the shared goals of the firm by helping to satisfy the human needs of job satisfaction and self-fulfillment.”
So, does all this apply to the church? Surely the church being the church –all about God and His people– means that this couldn’t possibly be the case … right?
On the contrary, as long as there are humans in leadership roles this will be the case. In fact, in my travels around the country I would say “fear and intimidation based” organizations are in place more often than not in the church. Staff members sit quietly afraid to speak their minds; they sit quietly to see what “management” will do next … thinking, “If that’s the way they want it, we’ll see how they feel when they fail.”
This is bad enough in secular organizations where the consequence is “going out of business.” The company will no longer be able to manufacture its product for the customer. But, in the church the stakes are so much higher! People’s lives won’t be changed. The poor and oppressed will not be loved and cared for. And, the population in Heaven will not be as high.
Think about it. Are you a “manager” or a “leader?”