by Kailey Bradley-Thomas
As counselors, we (attempt) to facilitate change for our clients on a regular basis. A critical piece of this is acknowledging that change and transition are gateways to growth and healing, a natural part of life. This sounds lovely in theory, but in practice, change can be exhausting for both client and counselor. Outside of the counseling arena, change is also exhausting. However, I would like to argue that change is an essential part of what I think it means to be a good leader. It is also a key part of the faith journey. Change reminds us that we are not in control and forces us to humbly bow our heads stating, “maybe we don’t have this whole thing figured out.”
The metaphor of seasons is one that has defined my faith journey more than anything else. I have experienced seasons within my faith journey of both spring and winter. It is a part of the natural cycle of our world. However, we grit our teeth and grasp onto a notion that we can avoid change. Despite our best efforts, leaves change and fall and summer turn to winter and then back into spring again. I used to think that being a leader means having all the answers in competently displayed Excel spreadsheets. I used to think that a good leader handled change with elegance, finesse, and detailed powerpoints. However, when my life is in a time of change I am a bundle of anxiety and my elegantly meticulous spreadsheets begin to look more like squiggles.
I began working at Hospice of North Central Ohio one year ago, which has challenged my preconceptions about leadership. I have been blessed with leaders at work who have taught me many things. One thing I have learned from them is that to accept change is to accept the humble notion that (despite my best efforts) I am not in control. Social workers, nurses, and chaplains at hospice help families with their loved ones at end of life. The gift of hospice is embracing the most painful change of all: death. I have learned that it is not my job to take away change from these families, but rather to sit with them. A good leader doesn’t have to have all the answers, but he or she is willing to pull up a chair and say “teach me…help me understand.” My co-workers at hospice have been examples of how to incorporate and live out the “discipline of change,” at work and in daily living. They have provided me with a different view of leadership.
It might seem odd to use the word discipline, but I think living out our calling as Christians in our various vocational spheres requires practice. Practice means we try, fail, and try again. Leading in our various vocational spheres means we utilize change to help us become better at our callings. As I mentioned above, leadership doesn’t require that we take change away by control or platitudes. We don’t have it all figured out; we’re only required to learn and change, (that darn word).
Kailey Bradley-Thomas, M.A., L.P.C., is Bereavement Coordinator at the Hospice of North Central Ohio. She is a 2015 graduate from the CMHC program at Ashland Theological Seminary.