From the start of her experience in Foundations of Christian Leadership in 2009, Chris Braudaway-Bauman said, the group pondered big questions.
What are the tasks of leadership? What does it mean to be a leader?
Through the assessments and exercises and time to contemplate that are all part of the experience, Braudaway-Bauman came to an understanding of leadership that she has been able to employ in her work.
“Leadership is not something that you ‘put on’ so much as it is a process of discovering — discovering my own particular gifts, affirming what it is that I have to give others, and to lead from that sense of my own self-awareness and to lead as an authentic person,” she said.
Because leadership isn’t just the work of one person, being a leader of a community means you have to draw out the leadership gifts of others, so they can bring all of who they are to the task. Once a leader draws out the vision from the group, it is his or her job to manage change, and also to clarify and to model the core values, she said.
Another of the program’s strengths was helping participants look at leadership issues from their personal perspective and from an organizational perspective as well.
“We were working at both levels all the time,” she said. “That’s where integrity comes in, and the sense that you’re modeling what it is that you hope for your organization.”
Braudaway-Bauman employed these ideas when she served as a coordinator for a Pastoral Residency program for new seminary graduates and was working to establish a network of peer learning groups for clergy in the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ.
She now serves as director of the Pastoral Excellence Network. In this role, she encourages and strengthens the network of organizations supporting pastoral excellence on a national level, building on the learning of the Transition into Ministry and Sustaining Pastoral Excellence initiatives across the country.
At the time she took part in Foundations of Christian Leadership, the Massachusetts Conference was expanding throughout the organization the “communities of practice” that had worked so well on a smaller scale.
Her Foundations experience strengthened Braudaway-Bauman’s confidence to stay the course with the vision for the program while also taking time to communicate with others and bring them along.
“I was spending a lot of time telling the same stories over and over again, really collecting the stories, the testimonies of what was happening in the group, and finally finding ways to show those among the larger constituency,” she said.
Being an authentic and effective institutional leader reflects a commitment to being a faithful Christian.
“Faith, learning, community — that really what’s at the heart of the Christian faith,” she said. “It’s also what we’re trying to promote everywhere we go. The sense of wholeness and a commitment to excellence — that it’s worth doing God’s work well.”
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