I like to think of myself as a person who has great intellectual flexibility. Often times I am very creative when it comes to problem solving. I even like change. I thrive on change. Change is a good thing in my mind because on the one hand it makes a jingly sound in your pocket and on the other it keeps divine bovines to a minimum. I also like to think that I handle complexity well. Again, it’s something that I face with a certain level of confidence and joy. That is, until complexity meets me outside of my comfort zone. When this happens well, it is not pretty.
According to Allender, when a leader finds himself in a position of complexity they can have a negative response of dogmatism. Dogmatism is defined as an “arrogant, stubborn assertion of opinion or belief.” It is not what you believe but is an issue of how you believe. Dogmatism is a symptom of rigidity. When the world becomes too complex, Allender argues, people can tend to become rigid in an effort to control the world around them.
I read this chapter in Leading With a Limp and thought, thankfully I do not do this! Then, as I continued to process more I realized that I do not do it in areas where I feel I am gifted or strong. I do however move in this direction when I am faced with complexity in places where I am out of my comfort zone.
For example, last summer I led a team of High School students and volunteers to Appalachia, Kentucky. We were there to serve people by working on two building projects. We were bringing some physical relief and dignity to people who desperately needed it. I am not especially gifted or talented in using my hands. I really do not enjoy it and the thought of doing this for a week really scared me. It took everything I had to keep my emotions in check on the site because felt so stupid.
When we would return to the camp I felt that I was back in my domain where I knew what to do and how to do things. This junction of physical and emotional exhaustion left me in a place where I became rigid when complexity struck at the camp. The complexity took the form of High School not doing things exactly as I expected them to do (surprise, surprise right?). This led me to be more dogmatic and rigid in how I approached various situations.
So, how do I move forward? Well, I am learning that awareness and communication are key. If I know that I am going to be in a situation like this then I need to prepare myself and my team that this might be an issue. That way WHEN my sin rears its ugly head everyone will know what’s happening and we will be able to interact honestly and openly about it.