A few random thoughts from Noel Tichy's The Leadership Engine.
"The exact synonym for consensus is mediocrity." That one comes from Father Bill Cunningham, founder of Focus: HOPE in Detroit.
"Leadership is about taking people to places where they have never dared to go." Again, Father Bill.
In the world we live in as pastors, it seems that leadership is all about taking people places where they want to go and if they don't, then you, as the pastor, don't go there, either.
Quite often, when we undertake new initiatives in churches, people express concern that we didn't get consensus or that everyone wasn't involved in the process of making the decision. This is rarely the case under the best of circumstances, but it's an illusion crafted and maintained by smaller organizations, often with the intent of keeping them small.
Generally speaking, without leadership, you're not going to get anywhere. If you're waiting for consensus from everyone, you'll spend a lot of time spinning your wheels because of the simple fact that, even under optimal conditions, not everyone can be consulted and, even when they are, people often have a hard time making up their mind about exactly what it is they want.
Consensus isn't bad, but the key element in the success of consensus is that it's the consensus of the key players. Not everyone in an organization is a key stakeholder, but there are always individuals who have a perceived level of leadership, despite the reality that their own commitment level is really nowhere near the level that of a leader.
This doesn't mean that people's ideas shouldn't be heard, of course. And sometimes, the wisdom at the top is faulty at a level which those at the top may not even be aware of. This is why listening is such an important discipline for leaders. However, the reality is that very few decisions that ever get made in any organization (church or otherwise) have complete buy-in from everyone from the outset.
Visionaries and early adopters generally set the tone for the future of any organization. It's rare that the big middle sets the agenda, largely because they're not engaged at a deep enough level to exercise leadership. The social capital is missing. And then, of course, there are those at the other end of the spectrum who may never get on board, and who may even perceive a threat in any change in their particular way of doing things.
Random thoughts on a Monday afternoon...thanks for the headsup about Tichy, John!