Reframing: How to Develop Your Leadership "Lens" in a Diverse World

Missional leadership depends upon the art of reframing. Reframing helps us to take a walk in someone else’s shoes and see the world from a different vantage point. Leaders who can reframe a context or situation can turn conflict into opportunity; despair into hope; sorrow into joy.

An Alternate Lens

When you are teaching a class, preaching, leading a formation group, sharing a meal, sending a message on Facebook or Twitter, there can be significant opportunities for reframing. By reframing I mean, providing an alternative lens through which to interpret a situation, experience, passage of Scripture, worldview, relationships, God or anything. Reframing is an artistic endeavor, that creates space for ambiguity, complexity, and generosity towards the “other”.
In the book Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice & Leadership Lee Bolman and Terrance Deal write,

Artistry is neither exact nor precise. Artists interpret experience and express it in forms that can be felt, understood, and appreciated by others. Art allows for emotion, subtlety, ambiguity. An artist reframes the world so that others can see new possibilities.

Pastors, leaders, storytellers, and artists can all help reframe our understanding of the world to see new realities that exist outside of their perspectives. Reframers help us to see the world and the people made in God’s image as full of possibility.
Practicing the art of reframing is a helpful way of leading in the midst of an incredibly diverse culture that takes seriously the way intersectionality impacts the way we see the world and one another. (Intersectionality is the awareness that each person has an overlap of different social identities, e.g. race, gender, sexuality, and class that inform the way a person understands and experiences the world.) The more aware we become of our presuppositions and our differences with others should lead to a kind of humility and empathy for other people’s experiences.
This kind of leadership, that attests to the in-breaking of the future Kingdom into the present and is capable of providing an alternative view of reality, is only made possible through the path of suffering and cross; because, without the cross there is no resurrection. Or as Wendell Berry says, “No future can be stuffed into this presence except by being dead.”
Reframing leads to new understanding which stirs up new reframing, which leads to new understanding, which leads to reframing and so on, in perpetuity for the rest of our lives. This doesn’t mean that we don’t believe anything, but rather that our posture of leading and seeing others remains open to the in-breaking of the Holy Spirit and one another. The in-breaking of the Spirit into our relationships can then expand the frames through which we interpret the narrative of the scriptures, our lives, politics, work, and world.
“No future can be stuffed into this presence except by being dead.” Wendell Berry Click To Tweet

How to Practice Reframing

Two helpful practices to learn how to reframe are:

  1. Listen before speaking
  2. Assume the person you are listening to is telling the truth

When you listen before you speak and assume the person in front of you is telling you the truth it breaks down the hostility that is so easy to hold onto when we experience a perspective different than our own. Like Paul before the altar to the Unknown God, being on mission requires the ability to reframe what you hear and seek intersections of hope.
In our current culture of distrust of despair, how might you lead as a reframer seeing what is possible instead of what isn’t working?
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About the Author

Josh Hayden

Josh Hayden is the Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church in Ashland, VA. Josh studied leadership and organizational change while writing Creative Destruction: Towards a Theology of Institutions to receive his Doctor of Ministry at Duke Divinity School. He’s also the author of Sacred Hope, a book designed to foster conversation about the role of hope in our lives. Josh currently serves on the V3 Board of Directors.

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