Dealing With Dysfunction   Leave a comment


Mummy of Nubian Priest

Mummy of Nubian Priest (Photo credit: pyramidtextsonline)

Let me be honest, there is dysfunction in every person’s life.  There is dysfunction in families and within organizational systems.  I think the difference between individuals and systems is the degree of dysfunction.  One of the challenges for a leader is to work with the dysfunction that exists within the system in which the person is a leader.  Sometimes this challenge can easily consume ninety-five percent of the leader’s time and energy.  So the challenge for the leader is to reduce the dysfunction to a more manageable level in order that the leader and the organization do not become sidetracked and fail to move forward in the group‘s mission and goals.


The first step in this process is to acknowledge the dysfunction and the sources that amplify the dysfunctional aspects.  This requires the leader to have the ability to look beyond the surface.  Many of the most noticeable issues related to dysfunction are not the true causes of the dysfunction. The leader must get to know the history of the group.  He/she needs to discover the points of joy and the points of grief.  An understanding of where disagreements have occurred and how those disagreements were handled is helpful.  Background of the previous leaders or “power” people of the group and how they interacted with the group is valuable.  The current voices within the group, both visible and behind the scenes, is important information.


Once a leader has some knowledge regarding the undercurrents which feed the dysfunction, then those undercurrents need to be addressed.  There needs to be open and honest communication with the individuals that are part of and/or impacted by the undercurrents.  There needs to be deliberate effort to reduce those undercurrents by acknowledge the pain that feed them and then guiding the releasing of that pain.  It may also be necessary to have some frank discussions with individuals regarding their contributions to the dysfunction and the need for them to adjust their behaviors.


Then there must be deliberate steps to move beyond the dysfunction.  A leader can allow the group to remain chained to their dysfunctions or may choose to lead the group beyond their dysfunction.  This requires the leader to have a vision for what can happen if the group releases the high levels of dysfunction.  The leader must generate a desire within the group to move into that vision by assisting the individuals to engage in that vision.


In various leadership roles that I have had and currently have, I have encountered dysfunction at a variety of levels.  As a leader, I think that one of my important responsibilities is to help reduce high levels of dysfunction within the groups I lead.  I am reminded of the story of Jesusand Lazarus in the Bible.  When Jesus calls Lazarus out of the grave, one of the first things he instructs those around Lazarus to do is to remove his grave-clothes.  Those clothes kept Lazarus bound in the dead existence that he was coming out of.  By removing the grave-clothes, Lazarus would be free to live the fullness of life that God had given to him.  I need to do that with groups for which I provide leadership.  I need to remove the grave-clothes of dysfunction that prevents them to live freely in the life that they have been given.




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