Does a school of fish have a leader? Not really. How do its members collectively determine the timing and destinations of their movements? According to Wikipedia, “A recent investigation showed that small groups of fish used consensus decision-making…The fish did this by a simple quorum rule such that individuals watched the decisions of others before making their own decisions.” Who knew?
Migrating geese adopt the familiar V-shaped formation for efficient travel. The lead goose has the hardest job, but when it tires it moves to the back and another will assume the point position. Their cooperative arrangement teaches us valuable lessons about teamwork and leadership.
Human organizations in the 21st century are behaving more and more like these models from the natural world. Technology, social media, globalization, self-publishing and crowd sourcing are features of our day that make “consensus decision making” possible and more prevalent. Schools of like-minded people swim toward their goals without waiting for permission from authorized gatekeepers. Leaders arise and arrange themselves organically like from within a gaggle of geese.
This line of thinking was inspired by the book, The New Breed: Understanding and Equipping the 21st Century Volunteer, by Jonathan and Thomas W. McKee. They write,
“In the 20th century, we used the metaphor of turning a huge battleship to illustrate leadership of an organization. All members of the organization were aboard the same ship going in the same direction, with the leader at the helm. In the 21st century, we’ve had to change the metaphor. Now we talk about leading a school of empowered minnows.”
If this is true it has important implications for how churches organize themselves and envision their leadership.
Are churches moving toward more hierarchical leadership structures while the culture flattens out? If 21st century volunteers (church members) operate like schools of fish, how will they react to battleship style leadership? Or, perhaps Christians are content to be crew on a battleship rather than accepting the risk of swimming or flying toward their own God-given goals.
Actually, the most important question is, which metaphor best depicts the Body of Christ that Jesus leads and that the New Testament describes: a battleship directed by one (human) commander or a community of empowered, unified and organically led people moving toward a common goal?
What do you think? Should churches operate like battleships or gaggles of geese? Do you foresee a paradigm shift in the way we organize ourselves and appoint leaders?
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27