Author Archives: David Loewen

Leadership and Charisma

Over the course of this year we have been looking at the idea of power and leadership, and we’ve done so through the lens of critical theory. That means we have tried to expose behaviors, practices, and norms—be they implicit or explicit—that limit us from fully flourishing as followers of Jesus. We have addressed gender, theology, culture, and status, and have yet to engage charisma and intelligence. I invite you to stay with me on this journey, as the most exciting part is yet to come: the post-exposure part where we explore what we do moving forward to ensure our enacting of power is more aligned with the Kingdom.
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What’s Your Status on Status?

At the outset, I want to acknowledge that the topic of status is challenging to think about. I think that is the case because it is often a hard reality to identify and impossible to quantify. I’m talking about the connection between a person’s status and the power they wield due to that status. And by status I am referring to one’s standing in a community
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Power and Culture

My neighbors moved in across the street just under a year ago. There is an older couple that appear to be grandparents, a younger couple with two small girls, and I think one other adult. The older gentleman’s name is Milkiet; he speaks very little English, is very gregarious and friendly, and is a pretty solid volleyball player, although our family has noticed that the techniques he learned playing in India are very different from the ones we learned.

It strikes me as funny that his volleyball techniques stand out as a difference when he also speaks a different language, dresses differently (including his turban), eats different food, and worships differently.
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Theology, Psychology, and Power

Last month we talked about one of the “Big Six” factors that influence how power plays out in our schools. I shared some reflections on how gender impacts access to positions of power and how power impacts gender.

In this entry, I’d like to look at the “theological” factors that impact the power dynamics we work within. I put quotation marks around the word “theological” because I think there are times when this word is misused, or at least used without reflection on whether it is the most accurate word.
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Gender and Power

In my last entry (“Power and the ‘Big Six’”), I introduced six factors that influence how power plays out. I’d like to spend some time reflecting on the first factor – gender.

To begin, a disclaimer: I’m a white, heterosexual male talking about gender issues; I am writing not as an expert, but through the lens of my experience. That said, I think my own experience is telling. I became a vice principal at the age of 26 and a principal of a school of over 400 students at the age of 29. Looking back, I believe my “maleness” played a significant factor in my movement into leadership – into positions of power.
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Power and the ‘Big Six’

I grew up as one of three boys, all of us physically active and rambunctious. That meant several things: we were rarely inside the house except to eat and sleep— kind of like a pet cat; a lot of stuff seemed to get broken in our house – windows, drywall, bones, etc.; and I knew where I fit in the social order. I was the youngest and therefore the smallest (until I was an adult; I’m now the biggest when IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER).

As children, my oldest brother was the biggest and strongest and was therefore at the top of the sibling hierarchy. He generally got his way amongst the siblings, while my middle brother just quietly did his own thing and never ruffled any feathers; he seemed to slide into opportunities unnoticed. As the youngest, I knew I had to suck up to my older siblings in order to be included in their shenanigans.

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Baby Power

So far we’ve talked a bit about the idea of critical theory in leadership—the work to expose norms, values, and practices that limit human flourishing, introduced some of the founders of social theory, and recognized the reality that, wherever there is human interaction, there are power dynamics, regardless of the official roles people are assigned. I promised that our next post would focus on some of the factors at play in the arena of power; however, I’m going to break that promise in light of the season we are in.

Instead, I want to share with you how the Advent of Jesus impacts my ideas of power and leadership.

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Theories of Power

In my last post I introduced the topic of power and leadership, gave a short outline of where we’ll go with it, and then gave a brief introduction to the idea of critical theory—the lens that will overlay our look at power and leadership.

Remember that critical theory at its most basic is the use of rationality to expose norms, values, and practices—implicit or explicit—that shape an organization or society. The goal in exposing all of these factors is to free humans from anything that limits their flourishing. We’ll come back to that.

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Power and Leadership

We welcome David Loewen as an author of the Voices blog. David is the superintendent of Surrey (British Columbia) Christian School.

The focus of my blog posts over the next few months will be power and the Christian school leader. As we seek to ensure that every area of our Christian schools falls under the lordship of Christ, it is vital for us to examine our leadership practices in the light of that context. At a very basic level, we need to ensure our leadership practices are not doing harm to those we serve; however, our calling is much higher than that as we strive to understand what practices, language, and attitudes we can foster that will facilitate the flourishing of our staff and students.

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