If I’m the leader, how come no one is following

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by Terry Camsey, Major – 

by Major Terry CamseyWELL DONE! The territorial personnel department substantially reduced the numbers of officers moved during the last change. It has been known for years that short corps officer stays usually work against growth—although it should be said that long stays do not necessarily promote it. That depends on also getting the right (or best) “fit” of officer to the appointment.

By now, corps officers who have recently moved will be starting to get a feel for their new environment. Some will be thrilled, others may possibly be a little disillusioned and starting to ask the question that heads this column. Take heart! It’s not a new question since I addressed it, a number of years ago, in an issue of The Officer.

It seemed (and still seems) to me that there are a number of things that might contribute to officers feeling a little uneasy in a new corps appointment. Let’s examine a few…

First, tensions can arise when an incoming officer is many years younger than his/her predecessor… especially if the former officer has been there some years. For one thing, those in the congregation who were around the same age as the previous officer can all of a sudden feel older. Plus, since people (including officers) tend to surround themselves with people of their own age, older people may lose a close association such as they had with the officer who just left. Add to this the fact that different generations have different value systems, likes and dislikes (even versions of the English language!), and the scene can be set for tension city.

Another cause of discomfort can arise when an officer of one temperament is replaced by one having an entirely different temperament. For years, in this territory we used the DiSC system to help local officers understand how different temperaments could work well together as a team. But if, for example, an officer with a “D” temperament (people-mover, controller, risk-taker, change-oriented) is followed by one with an “S” temperament (team person, group-oriented, slow to change), the latter can be seen by some as being lazy, negative, aloof. I have seen it happen and heard it said!

The background and experience of an officer can be of impact… education, social, economic, geographical, ethnic, roots… all can impact our effectiveness if the match with the congregation is not a good one. In fact, an officer raised in a small rural corps may see, and strive for an Army “ideal” totally differently to that envisaged by a large, urban, corps congregation.

Then, some officers have a burning desire to get things done…they are task, rather than people-orientated. They see themselves primarily as administrators, while others see themselves primarily as pastors… shepherds. Sheep can be awfully “put out” if a “shepherd” is moved and replaced by a manager!

In a similar vein, the role of an officer has to change from pastor to overseer, if he goes to a corps with more people than he can adequately shepherd on a 1:1 basis. If it doesn’t, he may sub-consciously strive to reduce the size of the flock to “pastorable proportions.” (I know, its not in the dictionary, but it says what I mean!)

Following an officer who has been moved (or who has retired) after many years at a corps, the newcomer is likely to be a victim of the grief of a congregation intensely feeling the loss of a loved one. He/she may even feel rebuffed as a “trespasser” in someone else’s pulpit. This feeling can be intensified, if children of the last officer stay at the corps and are (albeit unwittingly) a constant reminder of the “lost” loved one.

Sudden change in the worship-style a congregation is comfortable with can also cause problems. This can occur, for example, if a younger officer enjoys and introduces a more contemporary (even “pentecostal”) style of worship… while the older congregation—weaned on traditional Army expressions of worship—prefer the “good old,” “real Army” songs.

The reverse situation for each of these scenarios is just as relevant in terms of understanding why the new “leaders” may not feel able to make “the followers” happy.

“Fit to be tied” is also a critical principle to bear in mind while we are lengthening corps officer appointments, don’t you think

FOCUS – Never in the middle

FOCUS – Never in the middle

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