If you’re following any of the rhetoric emerging as a result of the current ecclesial crisis, you are no doubt familiar with the call for more women to be leaders in the Church. Let me make this perfectly clear: I agree wholeheartedly. And since I am a woman, that agreement is more than intellectual. It is experiential and it also represents a deep spiritual yearning. But there is a however…, just getting women around the table does not guarantee that they bring the kind of leadership skills and experience the Church needs. As a matter of fact, it is likely that the women chosen and approved for these positions will have been formed and shaped in systems that are similar, if not identical, to those that shaped the clergy. So the perspectives and experiences with regard to leadership will not be appreciably different.
What is the alternative? Broaden the range of knowledge and voices. Franciscan Friar Daniel P. Horan said it this way, “The idea of broader range means that you have other resources and tools to inform your outlook, to draw from in shaping an analogical approach to new situations beyond your experience, and to help you become more relatable and empathetic when encountering someone different from you or some idea different from your own.”
My recommendation: Welcome the voices of experienced female leaders by the study and practice of their ideas and skills. In this way, all the leaders assembled around the table welcome women’s LEADERSHIP voices. All can be influenced by their knowledge, understanding and application…their wisdom. Everyone’s range is broadened by women skilled and experienced in leading.
Here are five women whose wisdom, in my view, belongs around the decision-making tables in our embattled Church.
- Dr. Brené Brown. She’s a grounded theory researcher who has spent the last two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy and has most recently applied that research to leadership. Her book? Dare to Lead.
- Dr. Angela Duckworth. Her list of credentials would take up the rest of this blog. Just know she is the Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her book, Grit, is all about how what goes through your head when you fall down makes all the difference in your ability to get up and lead.
- Carla Harris. This woman of color’s powerful, soulful voice in her book Expect to Win offers insight into such leadership concepts as authenticity, perception, helping others grow, and balanced living.
- Danielle Strickland. A former officer in the Salvation Army, author, trainer, mother and courageous confronter of the abuse of power in the church, she speaks of how to create social change and how to create a better way. Her influential book is The Ultimate Exodus: Finding Freedom from what Enslaves You.
- Liz Wiseman. The CEO of the Wiseman Group, a leadership research and development firm. Her book Mutipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter champions the notion that leaders are in the business of making everyone smarter.