Last fall I attended a meeting where Stephen Lewis of the Fund for Theological Education spoke about creative leadership. Early on he claimed that “creative leaders are people who convene gatherings of diverse people because innovation only happens at the collision of diverse ideas.” I had mostly forgotten about this comment until this week when I read a post from Duke Divinity School where the author references some research by Randall Collins. He asserts that “all intellectual breakthroughs across the history of the world, across cultures around the world, consistently have depended upon sustained relationships of people from diverse backgrounds interacting with one another over time.”
This makes sense to me. Hanging out with people who see the world differently than I do pushes my assumptions and challenges my beliefs. When I am pushed, I grow, change and mature. I become a better, more tolerant person.
So, why do I spend so much time and effort avoiding being pushed? If I am going to be honest it is my secret desire that everyone just agrees with me and accepts my perspectives. Being confronted with my own short-sightedness, prejudices and incomplete worldview is embarrassing. It is much more comfortable and easy to simply be right, or at least believe that I am right.
Innovative leadership and creative ministry require space for diversity, at every conceivable level. Those who have the courage and humility to allow for diversity will find themselves not only on the cutting edge but creating the edge itself.