Good Leadership and Good Management: Why, How, What

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By John Redmond

JohnRedmond2One of the great ironies of many successful religious movements is that they almost always start from failure — from a secular and mainstream point of view.  Christianity had its charismatic young leader crucified as a rabble rouser for tipping over the tables in the temple. Christians spent years in intellectual gymnastics explaining how the messiah was born an illegitimate child and killed as a criminal.

The Pilgrim Fathers were driven out of England, as were many of the other colonists who settled in the New World.  The Latter Day Saints (Mormons) were driven westward to the American desert to die, their founder lynched and religion mocked.

Yet these movements found multi-generational success in preaching, modeling and promoting the values and doctrines that gave them fulfillment and improved the culture around them.

This doesn’t happen by accident.  Successfully attracting and maintaining believers over multiple generations and changing the values of a culture requires a combination of good leadership and good management, and they are not the same thing.

Leadership requires communicating and validating a shared vision to a group of people you may or may not control. Reverend Moon could cast that vision, and many people, even those uncomfortable with his management style, could agree with that large and inclusive ideal and, perhaps more importantly, sense the heart behind it.

Management is the control of money, processes and people to achieve a desired product or outcome.  I’ve never been impressed with many Unification managers, who mostly mean well, but have little success or training from the real world on which to base their decisions.  They mostly default to Theory X management, micro-managing the behavior of their members rather than nurturing their goals, activities and creativity — or they swing to the other side, to religious-based trust and out-of-control management systems.  A movement with a great vision but poor management may succeed, but its progress is measured in millennia rather than years.

With Rev. Moon ascended to the spirit world, the Unification membership has subdivided into smaller visions. One vision sees Korean hegemony in a monarchy; a second, a global peace-building vision; a third, a hereditary fiefdom; and a number of others follow personality-based shamans. While these are interesting visions, they are not as compelling as Rev. Moon’s original vision to liberate God and humankind from evil.

What does it take to have good leadership with a shared vision and professional management in a religious movement?

When you go to TED, the popular Internet “McWisdom” site, you can find among the top ten most popular talks a presentation by Simon Sinek, who, in 18 minutes, outlines a practical formula for having your ideas dominate the popular culture using a strategy of “Why, How, What.”  This leads to the common marketing formulation where you convert the early adopters, get buzz in the marketplace, convert the early majority, and reach a tipping point, where everyone will share your point of view or buy your new cellphone.

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The 16% Rule is a Diffusion of Innovation theory that uses consumer psychology principles to make the leap from early adopters to the mass market.

The recently successful same-sex marriage movement followed that formula, and many people find themselves supporting their agenda without quite understanding why.

Sinek makes the argument that successful promotion involves leadership that can articulate the “Why” question and successfully manage the communication, financial and production challenges that accompany the development of the idea or product. This formula seems uncomplicated, so why is it hard to do?

Since the death of the Founder, the Unification movement has been reeling from a leadership vacuum.  By external measures, the movement would seem destined to fail, and the existing power structure appears mired in competition for power, legitimacy and money.  The second generation — those who should be the early adopters — are either in outright rebellion, benign indifference, or damning their elders by faint praise: “I really respect first gens, they meant well and sacrificed a lot.”

The economic foundation that the Founder left is used to promote real estate deals. Church activities are reduced to propaganda events glorifying the Founder using a paid audience or church employees and pensioners.

When Rev. Moon first appealed to young people in the ‘70s and ‘80s, he spoke about the heartache of God and the vision to make a world where evil was removed from the public square and reduced to the effects of bad judgment and accidents. This “Why” was compelling. The “What” was the Divine Principle and Unification Thought, a new formulation of theology and philosophy that overcame many of the limitations of traditional religions and the heartlessness of pure intellectual solutions.

The “How” was public campaigns fueled by Japanese money utilizing American and international missionaries. This strategy allowed a relatively small movement to expose the failures of communism, bring a focus to God-centered marriage and start businesses and families that could support future growth.

This effort broke down in the 1980’s, and competition between factions within the movement led to competition for money and internal prestige instead of real results.  The “Why” became “Please True Parents” instead of “Liberate God’s heart;” the “What” became “pay ministers and politicians to attend lavish events;” and, the “How” revolved around internal and external propaganda instead of a search for truth and authentic spiritual growth.

What will it take to change the current downward spiral of the Unification movement?

The first step is the re-emergence of the original shared vision. While Rev. and Mrs. Moon are due extraordinary respect, the purpose of the movement is not to deify them but to emulate their successes.  Rev. Moon often spoke about how the children should exceed the parents, not put them on a pedestal.  The war to reverse the dominion of evil has many small battles and skirmishes; each one contributes to the final victory. As long as these efforts are aligned with the final goal, there is no need to attack each other over small differences.

The “Why” has to be deep and broad.  There’s no reason to aim low, to doctrinal or cultural limits; God loves us all and has a hope for each of us.  One of our goals has to be to connect people to that vision and allow them freedom to build it from their hearts.

The “What” is still the Principle. It is a communications tool to transmit through reason what people can’t yet feel in their hearts.  It can have many forms and takes time for people to appreciate. Our current version was originally designed for Korean Christians. One of the strategic mistakes we made is to assume everyone is as interested in the doctrine as the first generation was. In my estimation, only about 5% of any population care about doctrine.  They may have a code to live by, or give lip service to the Bible, but in general, the way they live their life is reflected in the people they love.

To communicate effectively, the sender needs to understand the receiver and send a message within the experience of that receiver.  That may involve many new expressions of the Divine Principle and Unification Thought.

The “How” is where the most work needs to be done.  The Internet has revolutionized communication, yet most of our work is still done on chalkboards. The second generation is in a position to master the tools and techniques of modern communication. Any advance in the vision of the Unification movement will be led by young people who have mastered these tools and can provide thought leadership for the culture.

An intergenerational task force to pioneer this approach to spreading our message would be both visionary and well-aligned with the inherent strengths of American culture.

The Unification movement is not destined to fail.  We have tremendous assets and foundations to build on.  What is required is a return to the larger vision and the professionalization of the management of the movement. This is within our reach and doesn’t require intervention from God — only humility and effort from His children.♦

John Redmond is the proud father of four interesting children, and has high expectations for the American Unification movement.

Photo at top: “Man looking through binoculars” by Alexandra Chalkousi

10 thoughts on “Good Leadership and Good Management: Why, How, What

  1. Excellent, thought-provoking article that speaks for itself. The author rightly argues the need for better management skills for the leadership class, the problem of which might be simply solved by establishing term limits on all positions in the UC. For so many years, the church has had so many “leaders for life,” whose positions only get changed every decade or two, usually to another upper-level leadership position, despite any real accomplishment or not. If the membership is to remain inspired and motivated, then perhaps term limits on those in all management positions can be institutionalized, say four or five years at most. After all, a big part of being a CIG owner is to have a decision-making say in what happens to the movement. Experiencing higher-level management responsibilities is a good way to accomplish this and to help change a business-as-usual culture.

    • According to the CIG constitution term limits are mandatory, but whether they will be complied with or not remains to be seen. I expect these rules are a thing of the future since their strict application at this time would put too many of those who spent 3 or 4 decades on the payroll of the movement in a position with no income and with little or no skills to earn their livelihood outside the movement.

  2. I agree. This is a well-thought-out and broad description of where the Unification Movement is today. I’d like to emphasize the point that John makes about communicating the Divine Principle. The 1973 black Divine Principle book that I joined with was targeted toward Christians, but today our culture is shaped by the media and university educations. So to most effectively communicate the Principle, it needs to be communicated in our contemporary cultural language, not a language popular in the 19th century. For example, arguments based on Bible verses are less persuasive than arguments based on scientific research, social science data, and historical analysis. Some of the most effective lecturers use such data and examples. Like, computer science, the same principles can be articulated in different cultural contexts.

  3. Our beloved first seminary President, the late Dr. David S. C. Kim, shared his advice that “Absolute Faith, Absolute Obedience, Absolute Love… Yes… but, we need Absolute Creativity!” Dr. Kim understood not only the American mind, but the divine character as UT states: “Divine character has heart, logos and creativity.” He supported the creative innovations of seminary grads and encouraged us to challenge ineffective management and leadership patterns. Dr. Kim supported those of us who went into chaplaincy and counseling professions (by the way, Dr. Kim studied Christian counseling long before our chaplaincy vocations were initiated).

    The best leadership, as I see it, is the kind that seeks to empower others to realize their potential and ability to take on responsibilities. The true leader will not covet position and power exclusiveness, but will genuinely take interest in multiplying everyone’s role and participation. We still have leaders who thwart the contributions of others by not encouraging a multiplicity of roles, a sharing of power, and creative endeavors.

    On the practical level, it would be a good idea to have term limits for many of our leadership positions. Even with the strengths of some leaders, their personal limitations can also unwittingly thwart the growth and success of a long-term project. Also, we need leaders to have specific training for specific roles, not just be chosen for loyalty or favoritism. We have seen some of our projects fail because the people chosen to lead them were not specifically trained for the role. As Lincoln modeled in his gathering of a “Team of Rivals,” often the person who complements a leader’s qualities is the best fit, rather than just the “yes-man” or “yes-woman.”

    Especially for first generation and the many older members in our movement, there is a time and place for blind faith and following; but at this stage of the game, we need to move into more action, as Bishop Kim says, and that needs to be encouraging initiative, innovation, sharing of power and responsibilities and a flowering of creative projects.

    My favorite metaphor for the fullness of being is the image of a beautiful expansive tree. The tree has roots, a sturdy trunk, numerous branches, numerous leaves, flowers and fruits.

  4. The saying “Managers do things right; leaders do the right thing” suggests that there are major if not profound differences between non-profit volunteers, hired employees, managers and leaders. There are categorical differences in autonomy, creativity, functional competency, emotional intelligence and motivation.

    In the case of the Unification movement and its founder, Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the conventional wisdom on management and leadership is confronted by lessons taken from the Bible and from the Divine Principle. Leadership lessons taken from the DP are presented from the viewpoint of the Principle of Creation and God’s Providence of restoration (foundation of faith and foundation of substance) through the principles of restoration through indemnity. The fundamental purposes and leadership styles of God’s Providence are significantly different from the democratic, participatory and autocratic management styles present in everyday business.

    As a basis of comparison and analysis, we can turn to Harvard business professors Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, creators of the balanced scorecard (BSC) system for strategy and management. The system has four major perspectives — resembling a four position foundation — learning-growth-innovation, customer focus, finance and operational processes. Through the BSC paradigm, a thoughtful and systematic analysis could be made of the Unification movement and its activities. What is the strategic vision of the Unification Church movement (UCM)? For example, a paraphrase of the Preamble vision of the US Constitution: Unity, Justice, Tranquility … to secure the Blessing for ourselves and Posterity.

    In the four strategic focus areas — learning-growth-innovation, marketing, financial investment and interdependent processes — which leadership styles, democratic, participatory or autocratic, are implemented? How have the leaders and stakeholders prepared, set targets and taken initiative for the future sustainability of the organization as a whole? The recorded history of the UCM has the data and information to answer these questions.

  5. Taking the current situation out of the context of inter-family conflict which it appears many Unificationists are understandably pre-occupied with seems to me to be a very profound and healthy idea. For many, it is not something that they will find emotionally satisfying, but if you will allow me a gross analogy, I think the Unification movement has entered its adolescence; along with all the upheavals and the often overwhelming sensory input that teenagers experience (both internally and externally), one of the great challenges of adolescence is learning to put on hold or at least check the drive for emotional satisfaction in pursuit of the higher, more whole-centered goals, purposes and objectives.

    A maturing person must inevitably place such priorities in the subject position. While children understandably desire emotional satisfaction above all, becoming a responsible adult means delaying the kind of gratification and realizing that there is more to the world than me feeling happy about things. Anyone who has achieved some success in their internal lives know that this is a hill that cannot be compromised. It must be approached, and well, to quote Father, ‘digested’. And, both history and experience bear out the truth that the greater happiness resides on the other side of this hill; it is not just a task to be undertaken because you were told to, but because true happiness comes through the harmonious relationship of personal satisfaction and unity with the higher, greater good.

    Your offering on AU is a clarion call to serious Unificationists who are either currently or who might be motivated to take responsibility in the sense that Father always advocated: “I will take up the task, I will not rely on God. I will become a mature child who can give my parent rest.”

    In this era of confusion, it is incumbent on all dedicated Unificationists to realize the limitations of an attitude that seeks first and foremost the emotional gratification which was destined, in our spiritual childhood, to be focused on True Father’s family. Regardless of where our hearts lie with regards to this most precious family and group of individuals, God’s needs the Unificationists to realize that the world needs thousands of True Parents, thousands of True Families, and Thousands of True Children, and that the definition of each of these assignations does not lie essentially in a direct familial relationship with Sun Myung Moon, but more authentically lies in the kind of heart and dedication to end God’s suffering and the suffering of humanity that all true children of God will naturally aspire to, as embodied and demonstrated by Father Sun Myung Moon himself.

    • I agree with your analogy, that our movement is currently in its adolescence and supposedly should acquire the necessary features that characterize an adult. Therefore, I suggest that we as members of this movement should not only envision to become/be “the Children of God” but also/rather the “Adults of God”, which I would see as another expression of “Owners of CIG”. So TF’s determination: “I will take up the task, I will not rely on God. I will become a mature child (adult) who can give my parent rest,” would and should be a fundamental goal expressed and integrated into the educational programs for the 2nd generation. Unfortunately many of us by desiring to become/be a “Child of God” overlook the necessity of making the steps to embody an “Adult of God”. Sometimes using another wording can make a difference over time.

  6. Robert,

    I like your insights. Our Unification leadership style has been autocratic and tribal. This served a useful purpose in the launch phase of our movement but now it is constraining our growth.

    We can learn a lot from the corporate world about managing growth and productivity.

    As Dr. Anderson noted above, we could also use some help in refining our product for the market.

    • John,

      It’s a difficult task to define our product — social proof : a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation. We are not trying to ride a trendy wave of marketing influence; rather we are investing in partial paradigm change. The three styles of management , democratic, participatory, autocratic, with an addition monarchic style representing an inner base four position foundation (4PF). The outer four position foundation would resemble the Balanced scorecard (BSC) – learning-growth-innovation, finance, marketing and key operational processes and indicators (KPI). The quality of communication contained in the inner leadership base would drive the performance in the outer (BSC) base. Furthermore, I am suggesting a revision of the reading of the Preamble (vision) of the US Constitution. Unity, Justice, Tranquility … to secure the Blessing for ourselves and Posterity – three object purposes and four position foundation (TOP/4PF). Again, this is an application of the two stage diagram ( inner base / outer base ) for development from Unification thought. Finally, by the adoption and combination of the paraphrased Preamble vision, leadership styles and operational design we can arrive at a definition of our actual product — a social proof or paradigm shift. To say, we have yet to reach the tipping point.

    • John,

      Harvard business professor Chris Argyris (1923-2013) over his career wrote beautifully on interpersonal competence, organizational learning — single and double loop learning, and reflective psychology. From his seminal work the corporate world learned a lot about managing growth and productivity. His Model-in-use theory of defensive and productive reasoning as a reflective model — governing variables, action strategies, behavioral consequences and learning effectiveness — could be used to understand our current situation as a movement. The collaboration and integration of the Balanced scorecard system (Kaplan, Norton) and the Theory-in-use model (Argyris) may include new expressions of Unification thought, Divine Principle and a flowering of creative projects.

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