It is time to pack my suitcase again. I am off for two weeks to Newbold College in the UK, interrupted by a few days in Belgium. At Newbold a session will be held of the Masters-course in Leadership, with which I am involved. In Belgium the quadrennial constituency meeting of the Belgian-Luxemburg Conference of the Adventist Church will take place. It will be my task during those two days to chair the Plans Committee.
It is exciting to see who are chosen as new leaders ‘in Brussels’. I follow the events at the European Union very closely. The results of the European elections of last week were rather encouraging, at least as far as the Netherlands is concerned. The ultra-right parties did not break through as they had hoped. In fact, the party of the islamophobic Geert Wilders, lost all its seats in the European Parliament. I consider that very good news. I hope that Frans Timmermans will be elected as the Chairman of the European Commission. I must admit that this though it partly inspired by nationalistic sentiments, but I do see him as a leader with authority and vision, and the best candidate for this top-job.
It is impossible to predict how the elections in the Adventist Church in Belgium and Luxemburg will turn out. I remain very interested in what happens there, since a few years ago I served as the interim-president of that conference for some 18 months . The election system that we use in our church does not always put the best people at the right places. I hope the delegates will go for continuity and stability and that the current president will be re-elected. In a little over a week we will know!
During the coming two weeks most of my time will be devoted to the coaching of a number of persons who are enrolled in the MA course in Leadership., sponsored by Andrews University and Newbold College. The members of my studygroup are from the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Germany. I am one of the five ‘advisors’, who each have the task to coach a number of the ca. fifty students. The course is scheduled to take three years, with two session each year where all come together (one of those sessions is in the coming weeks), besides regular (mostly monthly) meetings of each group. I meet with my group alternatively in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium or England. The students have a lot of reading assignments and must write a dissertation and ten shorter papers. That means there is a lot of reading for me.
The whole enterprise requires quite a bit of my time, but it is also fun to be involved with a project like this. I do see, however, that most students do struggle to combine their work and their study. (I know from experience how challenging it is to pursue an academic study in combination with a busy full-time church job.) It does give me satisfaction to have a small part in the formation of new leaders. There is a great need for real leaders in the church at all levels. In the process, I am also learning a lot myself. Listening to the lectures about the various types of leadership I sometimes quietly wonder what kind of leader I have been. In what aspects did I score reasonably well and where could I have benefitted from a bit of extra direction?
After having been involved in the project for about two years, I have an opinion about the structure and quality of the course. I realize that choices must be made and that not all aspects of leadershipo can receive full treatment, I wished, however, that more attention would be paid to the ethical elements in leadership and to some technical requirements for leaders, such as leading out in meetings, conflict resolution, strategic planning and time management.
Against the opinion of some leadership-gurus I remain convinced that leadership can only be learned to a certain extent. Some just ‘have what it takes’ to develop into a good leader, while others will never move beyond being a mediocre leader. I believe we have plenty of evidence for this in what we see around us. I would not just call this ‘charisma’, for this so-called ‘charisma’ often covers some real weaknesses. “Vision’ is probably a much better term. Regretfully, we often see but little ‘vision’ with our church leaders—locally, nationally and internationally. A course in leadership can help to further strengthen and develop vision, but somehow a leader must already have this characteristic if he/she is to grow into an inspiring leader. I hope that I can contribute something in stimulating this vision-element in ‘my people’ and can serve in some limited ways as a role model.