Leadership beyond power took on an interesting twist as we gathered for our first of two days on the campus of Biblical Seminary. Sally works with a noted architect and together they use a phrase to describe the power of space, “The room always wins.” Rather than the normal setting for our course we adjourned to the chapel and a corner where we pulled up some chairs and couches to create a more “flattened” feel.
Most of our educational experiences take place in a face forward environment. We usually sit around tables in something of a horseshoe arrangement. While this allows us to see it does create a directional learning atmosphere toward the “speaker.” ETREK holds the value of collaborative learning in a facilitated context. The learning is facilitated by a “leader” who acts as a “fellow traveler” who may be a step ahead in the learning journey but is at the same time learning with those around the room (collaborative).
When Sally noted this morning the room wins, I immediately thought of the learning atmosphere where we found ourselves. Conversations generated from interactions with a couple of texts and those in the group contributed to the conversation giving multiple voices and perspectives. In the end the phrase “the room always wins” also contained a referent to the wrestling we would face thinking about leadership and power. If the room was so structured to create a particular atmosphere it did not matter its color, lighting or shape of the tables. When we moved to a different space the metaphor helped create a different perspective on leadership and in the end the room helped win the day for some healthy discussions around leadership and power, gender and structures, roles and systems.
We will have to move again tomorrow. I hope the room does not win and we continue to press the import of de-centered leadership where everyone finds value as both humans and participants in any organization including the church.