Vicar's Blog ~ October 2018
Here’s a little conundrum for you: The police are looking for a suspected murderer - they know his name is John, but they do not know what he looks like. But they do know where he lives. They raid the house, and find a poker game in progress, being played by a fire officer, a mechanic, a lorry driver and a carpenter. Without hesitation or word spoken, they arrest the mechanic.How do they know they have got their right person?
The answer is simple - the mechanic is the only man! I tell this story because it is used as part of the training that is now rolled out for clergy - and PCCs sometimes - for what is called ‘unconscious bias’. In thinking about that little story many of us would have unconsciously assumed that fire officers, mechanics, carpenters and lorry drivers are men, so it makes the question difficult, as we imagine the police faced with four men playing poker, whereas obviously, when faced with three women and a man in the room, looking for a man called John, the police would immediately know of whom to take hold.
There are lots of various kinds of biases we can be influenced by, and it can affect how we treat people, and it is very important in how employers act too. Recent research in America has shown that the percentage number of senior leaders in America who are more than 6 feet tall far exceeds the average. Tall people tend to get senior jobs. But it does not mean that this this is deliberate, nor that tall people are in any sense better at or better qualified for such high positions than those of average or lower height. The bias towards them is unconscious.
Having been away this week with all the brand new shiny new curates in London Diocese - and I must say I learn far more than I teach - I joined with them in receiving this ‘Unconscious Bias’ training, which I found fascinating. I also looked after Bishop Sarah who came to celebrate communion and speak to them, and I can now personally vouch for what a great appointment hers is, and how lucky we all are, and will be to have her as our new Bishop. I was tasked with transporting her to and from Broxbourne station, which proved an adventure on Wednesday night when a road was closed and I ended up lost somewhere near Nazeing in Essex! But that’s another story...
We also gave the curates some training entitled ‘Leading from the Second Chair’. This is also fascinating stuff about how to be a number 2 - how to exercise a leadership role when you are not actually in charge. And, you may have heard of these, how to upwardly lead. You may have also heard of 360 degree leadership.
The key thing though is that Leadership is a choice you make, not a place you sit. And I’m not going to rehearse what we taught the curates about how to manage their bosses, survive their curacies, not get caught up with petty disputes and so on. The main point is that while in some sense the vicar is the boss and the curate sits in the ‘second chair’ - the fact is, the first chair is and always will be occupied by God. God is the boss.