UNDERSTANDING COMMUNITY DYNAMICS AND THE ROLE OF LEADERSHIP
God calls us to community. Through community we can be helped to discover our truest and deepest selves. In the same way the profound social orientation of the human heart, though denied by some, nonetheless gives each of us a deep desire for support of shared ideals and vision. The lonely life of a radical individualist is finally, at a deep inner level, neither very satisfying nor so happily abundant as it could be. There is both an intense desire for an improved quality of communal life and a sense of fear or resistance surrounding it. Candidates entering religious congregations today are very much influenced by the post-modern radical individualism, but at the same time we find in them too a hunger for meaningful community. And so the person is caught up in this ambivalence and it is also reflected in the quality of life lived by religious in the present time. Many begin to question the relationship between community life and mission, their relevance and importance. Many in communities find themselves caught up in a situation of “nesting” and do not know how to move forward. A lot of energy is spent in questions of power and authority in the community and members find the exercise frustrating as the quality of their participation in the apostolic work suffers. Many communities could be better termed as “hotels” where individual members come together only to eat and stay, and the rest of their lives are spent in their own individual apostolate and programs. Many find it hard to make a reality what the Psalmist envisaged in Ps. 133:1: “how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.” So an attempt is made here to understand the reality of Religious community and the role of Leadership in their effort to make a reality the apostolic effectiveness. Though these two realities influence and interact very closely in the community dynamics, I present them in separate sections for the sake of clarity. I use the principles of Social Psychology and Group Dynamics which could very well throw light on our understating of community life and the role of leadership. So initially a few concepts from these two branches of psychology would be presented. Then the reality of community and leadership would be situated within a short Scriptural, theological reflection. Then specific aspects of community dynamics and the role of leadership would be discussed. The main focus would be placed on those aspects of the community dynamics that prevent apostolic effectiveness and those aspects that could favour the same effectiveness.
Theoretical Foundation for Understanding Community Dynamics
As in any group, in religious community too we find certain dynamics present. Understanding them is very important as they can help us to situate the community at the present moment, evaluate its vitality and do necessary renewal to move forward. Here certain concepts from social psychology and group dynamics are discussed to help us understand the community dynamics.
1.1. Clarification of Concepts
The basic concept that needs clarification is the term Group. “A group is a collection of persons who have some common bond arising from a distinctive set of social relations. It is not merely the sum total of the individuals who constitute it. Each group is an entity, with a nature of its own. It has a specific form and structure, a history, and aims.” The groups can be considered as Primary groups and Secondary groups. We can describe a group as primary if it is based on and sustains primary relationships, e.g., families and support groups. The following are the characteristics of primary groups: freedom in relating, persons accepted totally for themselves, no substitution possible and their deepest needs are fulfilled. Whereas secondary group is a “group consisting of persons who share some values and have some common standards of behaviour but only with respect to limited segments of their lives.” The following are the characteristics of secondary groups: rules govern their conduct, roles are valued, people are interchangeable and deepest needs are not met. Primary groups can develop within a secondary group that has been together long enough for strong bonds to form among members. So religious communities can have the characteristics of both primary and secondary groups.
1.1.2. Group Dynamics
Group dynamics refers to the interaction among members of a group, each of whom depends on the others. The group can exert pressure on a person to change behaviour, but at the same time the person also influences the group when change occurs. This includes also the “study of group processes focusing on issues such as power, power shifts, leadership, group formation, how one group reacts to other groups, cohesiveness and decision-making.” In a religious community setting this could be considered as the “dynamic interaction between the intrapersonal and interpersonal characteristics of needs, attitudes and values.” And these dynamic aspects determine the perseverance and effectiveness of each member in the religious community. The superiors or the leaders of the community need to attend to this unconscious dynamic occurring within the community. Gaining this knowledge increases the likelihood of both personal and communal growth. If the dynamics within the group or community is not recognized and understood, problems will arise that have the potential to destroy the group.
The term community can evoke different meanings for different people. A common definition could be stated as follows: a community is “a group of people who, regardless of the diversity of their backgrounds, have been able to accept and transcend their differences, enabling them to communicate effectively and openly and to work together toward goals identified as being for their common good.” From here if we focus on a Christian community, we can define it as “a small group of persons who come together on a regular basis to foster their spiritual, personal, and/or apostolic growth.” Etymologically, the essence of community, “union with” or “common” connotes an in-depth recognition of a union that is shared by all the members of a particular group. So the real essence of community is: union of minds and hearts. And if we take it further to understand what a religious community is, the following characteristics can give an integral view: consecration, charismatic nature, the common life, and the grace of being together. The primary characteristic of the religious community is the fact that it is a community of consecrated people, i.e., the religious community is composed of people who have built their lives around the evangelical counsels as a particular way for perfecting charity. A second characteristic feature of the religious community comes from its being a charismatic community. This evolves from a common call to share the same charism with other brothers and sisters. At the root of every religious family is the particular experience of the founder or foundress. The third element is the life in common, which gives ecclesial communion a specific pattern of its own, making it visible in a stable common life. And the fourth element is concerned with how the relationship between its members are established. And so we can say that the religious community possesses a particular identity of its own in the ecclesial communion because it is composed of people consecrated by vows, its specific charism gives it particular feature of its own, it practices a concrete and stable common life, and it does not possess any prior human bonds – relations between its members are motivated only by the call of grace.
Now let me proceed to present some group dynamic aspects which can help us understand the dynamic aspects of living in community.
1.2. Different theories concerning the Group Dynamics
I present here certain theories which could throw light on the community dynamics, such as the theories of Bion, Kernberg, and Messer.
1.2.1. Group Regressive Process according to Wifred Bion
According to Bion, a group mentality arises as the group becomes a unit. At any given moment, a group holds one of three basic assumptions, which may differ from the beliefs of the individual members. The basic assumption of dependence arises from the group’s anxious need to depend absolutely on someone who ought to protect the members and satisfy all their desires. Collective belief in an enemy who can be dealt with only by attack or retreat forms the basic assumption of fight-flight. The basic assumption of pairing defines the notion that some future event or person will come from outside to solve all problems.
Bion envisioned two basic types of groups: the basic assumption group and the work group. The basic assumption group is shaped by the unconscious of each group member, and the assumptions play out without the cooperation or even knowledge of individuals. The dependent group seeks an all-powerful leader, the fight-flight group needs an enemy and wants the leader to formulate a defense, and the pairing group looks forward to some promised perfect state in the future.
On the other hand, the work group depends upon a certain maturity in members, manifested by cooperation, tolerance of frustration, and rational thought. Although the task may be difficult, group members experience growth as they are guided in their work by a leader. The basic assumption group evades or disposes of new ideas without considering them, but the work group focuses on the task at hand instead of drowning in fear. However, it is important to remember that every work group contains within it an unseen and irrational basic assumption group which may erupt at any time.
1.2.2. Internalized Object Relations Theory of Kernberg
Kernberg, while dealing with regression in groups, suggests that participation in different types of group processes poses a basic threat to personal identity, i.e., involvement in group is likely to activate primate object relations, primitive defensive operations, and primitive aggression with predominantly pre-genital features. The unstructured nature of the group setting is the key factor which activates the regressive tendencies in the members. Here regression means reverting back to a more primitive mode of behaviour. Two of the principle characteristics of these regressive tendencies appear to be the manifestation of ‘primitive aggression’ and ‘infantile sexual features’ on the part of those involved in the group process. Kernberg identifies the procedure of blindly following an idealised leader through identification with him/her as serving two important functions; (1) this permits protection from intra-group aggression by having a common identity and also (2) allows the gratification of dependency needs by submission to the leader.
According to his theory of ‘internalized object relations’ the unstructured nature of any group situation throws the human person back into a mode of behaving which we all followed prior to the formation of object constancy and the consolidation of our ego, superego and id. It is this primitive form of behaviour which exposes the individual to expressing high levels of aggression and sexual desires which are then defended against by the idealization of the leader as normal social conditions and ordinary role functioning is suspended within the microcosm of the group session.
1.2.3. Messer’s views on Family Defenses
Messer presents a few defenses used by families when they enter into a crisis or conflict to maintain the family homeostasis. I present these mechanisms here to identify them in the religious communities as the members learn to deal with conflicts and crisis in the community the way they have learned it at home. When the community enters into a conflict any of these mechanisms could be activated to deal with the situation. Here are the mechanisms of homeostasis proposed by Messer:
Scapegoating: this mechanism is often used in authoritarian families. In this family, the members are ruled by an unbending and intolerant parent. They feel helpless when it comes to rebelling against this authority. When one member finally does rebel … the other members may label him/her as a rebel, the fool, the black sheep etc. The other family members can then project onto this scapegoated individual all the rebellious impulses they harbour in themselves. At the same time, they punish him for his rebellion. The problem is that there is never any resolution of the basic problem, i.e., the authoritarian nature of the family. Scapegoating has lessened the tension, but has blocked the way to solution of family problems.
Formation of Defensive Alliances or Coalitions: Alliance formation occurs temporarily in most families when one member comes to the support of another during an argument, but it generally withers away. It is a routine part of the family life. However, permanent defensive alliances seriously impair the adaptive functioning of a family.
Withdrawal of affect: Here the family handles its problems by ceasing emotional communication with each other, and conflicts remain unresolved. These are the families who routinely control a conflict by withdrawal of affect and become mechanized, rigid families. Here sometimes members seek affective contacts outside the family. A sense of humour is vital for relieving conflict.
Designation of One Member as Family Healer: In this homeostatic mechanism, one family member is designated as umpire or healer, and contacts the dissenting parties to arrange a truce or reconciliation. … There are times when an umpire or healer from outside the family is necessary, but if the family resorts to an outside healer for every minor conflict, then when crisis supervenes and the healer is not available, the family may become disabled.
Loosening the Family Unit: In this situation, the family members deal with conflict by seeking emotional contacts outside the family. Home is a hotel where all the tenants are on good, but not intimate, terms.
Discharge of Tension by Repetitive Fighting: In some families tensions are discharged continually by verbal abuse or physical battles. The tension is drained off and allows for emotional harmony among members.
Communion for Mission: A Short description of New Testament and Ecclesial Perspective
Before we enter into analysing the dynamics operative in the religious communities it would be appropriate to give a short account of the basis of community life from New Testament and the recent Papal pronouncements.
2.1. The Trinitarian Communion
The origin, source and model of community life, and specifically religious community life, is the Trinitarian communion. In the New Testament, especially in the Gospel of John we find frequent references to this communion (cf. Jn 10:30; 17;21; 14:20). The theological model of communion starts from the fact that God has intervened in history and has revealed Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Three are revealed to us as living such a high degree of communion that they are for ever One. The divine Persons dwell in unity without fusion or confusion. Each maintains, in relation to the others, his originality, his personal and unrepeatable condition. From within this difference unity is reached and from within this unity difference is reached. And the Trinity is made known to us in the life and practice of Jesus. In Him we also come to understand what we mean to God, and to what extent the three Divine Persons have committed themselves to us and the communion to which they call us (cf. Eph. 2:4-9).
2.2. The Apostolic Community
Jesus came to fulfil the plan of the communion of the Trinity. Thus He is presented to us during his public life as forming a community with the apostles, as a paradigmatic realization of the mystery of unity: He named Twelve as His companions whom he would send to preach (cf. Mk. 3:13-14; 1:16-20). Jesus had three years of intensive formation and apprenticeship for his disciples. During this period, he taught them what true discipleship was all about. Jesus in fact realised how difficult it would be for the disciples to be in communion with one another. He knew from his experiences that they would not give up their egos so easily and that each one would strive to be the first and the greatest and that they would fight till the end to occupy the top posts (Mk 9:33-34, 38; 10:35-37). Perhaps these attitudes of his disciples even after being with him for three years and having undergone intense period of formation urged Jesus to solemnly pray for them to his heavenly Father in his last days saying: “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). This is the unity he referred in the image of the vine and branches: “I am the vine, you are the branches” (Jn 15:5). This image sheds lights not only on the deep intimacy of the disciples with Jesus but also on the necessity of a vital communion of the disciples among themselves. Of course all are branches of a single vine. After the resurrection of their master, indeed the disciples of Jesus “were of one heart and soul” (Act 4:32) and as a result “with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and great grace was upon them all” (Act 4:32).
2.3. Recent Ecclesial Pronouncements
Late Pope John Paul II who insisted so much on communion writes in his apostolic exhortation Christifideles Laici: “communion begets communion: essentially it is likened to a mission on behalf of communion… Communion and mission are profoundly connected with each other, they interpenetrate and mutually imply each other to the point that communion represents both the source and the fruit of mission: Communion gives rise to mission, and mission is accomplished in communion” (32). On another occasion, he says: “The effectiveness of religious life depends on the quality of the fraternal life in common. Even more so, the current renewal in the Church and in religious life is characterised by a search for communion and community”. In his Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia, he speaks of “communion for mission” and “mission for communion” and insists that communion and mission should go hand in hand.
For some, it may sound odd and strange. The relationship between fraternal life and apostolic activity has often led to misunderstandings, confusions and tensions. It is sometimes asserted that building up of fraternal communion is an obstacle to mission, sheer waste of time and a matter of secondary importance. The Congregation for Institute of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life dispels this doubt stating: “All must be reminded that fraternal communion as such is already an apostolate; in other words, it contributes directly to the work of evangelisation. The sign par excellence left us by our Lord is that of lived fraternity: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (Jn 13:35)”.
Dynamics of Community
My personal experience of living in different communities indicates that every community experience has the potential either to be life-giving or life-draining. It mostly depends on how well the members understand the normal group dynamics that occur in any community. Since community is a group, as we have seen in the clarification of concepts, anyone whishing to be effective needs to be trained and knowledgeable about the dynamics that occur in all groups. So I present here certain community dynamics from developmental and dynamic perspective.
3.1. Stages of Group Development
According to Hammett, Juliano and Sofield, all groups go through fairly predictable stages, and local religious communities are no exception to this fact. The term stage here refers to the steps that one goes through in a developmental process. And stages must always be viewed as helpful guides, never as definitive facts. Understanding stages through which communities progress is important:
- It allows us to identify where a community is developmentally at any given time. The frustration of many people in community comes from the fact that the community is not where the members would like it to be.
- Realizing that stages are universal and that all groups pass though them often helps to relieve some of the anxiety felt by community members.
- Once people are aware of the stages, they are able to name what they are experiencing, thereby making it less frightening. Understanding the dynamics will free people to communicate more openly and honestly.
A community can become fixated at any stage; and communities can regress to an earlier stage. We should not expect all the members of a community to be at exactly the same stage. Now let us proceed to understand each stages.
3.1.1. Stage 1: Orientation
The initial stage of a community involves orientation. This stage corresponds to what Tuckman called the stage of Forming. In this stage the members seek to discover what norms are acceptable and unacceptable within the group. They search for structure and goals. There is concern about group boundaries. In the early stages, groups are often a source of anxiety and discomfort. Each person, overtly or covertly, anticipates rejection by the group. It may be communicated through silence, defensiveness, or any of the many ways we characteristically deal with fear. The community usually spends most of its time attempting to clarify what behaviour is acceptable. At this stage it is important that community members become aware of and clarify their expectations regarding other members, formulate norms that they feel are important for the maintenance of the community. During this stage members feel anxious and fearful, and these feelings are expressed in variety of behaviours. So it is important at this stage to respond to this need of the members and great care has to be taken not to react to the behaviour. Only when individuals feel safe and secure will they proceed to the next stage. In the orientation stage communities struggle with issue of trust.
3.1.2. Stage 2: Inclusion
The community then enters into a second stage, inclusion-exclusion. The transition to this stage happens at an unconscious level. Members begin to sort out those who are “in” and those who are “out” according to their unconscious preferences. Some members feel a part of the group, which indicates that they have a sense of belonging. Some experience a sense of alienation. The need to feel a sense of belonging is a powerful drive, and when this basic need is frustrated, the normal reactions are fight or flight, as theorized by Wilfred Bion. Some members who experience alienation develop very aggressive responses and appear to be in constant battle with the community, disputing every suggestion, recommendation, and tradition. Others assume a flight mode, which usually results in either termination of membership or in minimal involvement by living on the periphery of the group. Members who feel that the community excludes them and cannot meet their needs may revert to neurotic behaviour to attain this need satisfaction. If a community is to move beyond this stage, it must establish a climate of safety in which those who are feeling alienated are able to ask questions that will help them feel more like members of the group.
3.1.3. Stage 3: Control
This is the “up-down” stage, the period during which the community establishes a hierarchy among the members. There is often a perceptible overlap between this stage and the previous stage. Members begin to test out their influence in the group, usually at a subtle or unconscious level. And the predominant need at this stage is for esteem, both self-esteem and the esteem of others. It is a normal dynamic for a community, usually in an unconscious way, to stratify members along a continuum ranging from the most to the least important, valued, and esteemed. Those who see themselves as least important feel devalued and react accordingly. Competitive behaviour is evident at this time because it is the vehicle for individuals to satisfy their need for esteem. Therefore, conversations within the community center around personal accomplishments and status. At this stage it is very important to discern the gifts of each member so that it may help to heighten the esteem and minimize the competitive climate in the community.
3.1.4. Stage 4: Conflict
After the initial stages the community enters into another important and difficult stage, the stage of Conflict. It is similar to the stage of Storming described by Tuckman. Conflict is an inevitable stage in the life of every community and religious community is not an exception to it. Conflict can arise because 1) group members are so bound together that their actions negatively affect one another; 2) each member has different needs and values; and 3) decisions essential to the group’s continuation are faced. Conflict is an extremely difficult issue for most people living in the community. Many never learned how to handle it and often see it as wrong or give it an importance far beyond its potential. At this stage some communities become stuck and tensions develop. Conflict is necessary – without it the group will not grow. According to Yalom, disagreement is valuable because it fosters excitement and learning. Members need to develop the ability to confront one another. Conflict is productive only when it is resolved. When dealt with, it reduces the natural tension and frustration people experience as they work together; it allows for the expression of aggressive feelings that could otherwise interfere with the quality of the group’s work. All the defensive manoeuvres, mentioned at the initial part of the paper, would be employed by the members. In order to build effective, life-giving communities there must be a willingness to embrace conflict. The choice demands a concrete act of the will, since the natural inclination is to avoid it. After the conflict, substantial energy must be directed towards fostering the process of forgiveness. The task of leadership is to encourage the members to address the conflict.
3.1..5. Stage 5: Cohesion
When the community has begun to deal effectively with a conflict, it moves into the stage of cohesiveness. “Cohesiveness is broadly defined as the resultant of all the forces acting on all the members to remain in the group, or, more simply, the attractiveness of a group to its members. It refers to the condition of members feeling warmth and comfort in the group, feeling they belong, valuing the group and feeling, in turn, that they are valued and unconditionally accepted and supported by other members.” Cohesive groups are more productive, have a higher morale, and have better communication than groups with little cohesiveness. At this stage interpersonal and group maintenance issues are likely to receive greater attention. A community achieves a spirit of unity, peace, and cohesion only after it has engaged in conflict. Avoidance of conflict prevents the ultimate growth of the community. It is the very struggle with conflict that creates the condition where the community begins to sense a togetherness, a cohesion. Two negative trends may emerge at this stage, i) a tendency to “nest”, i.e., the community can become self-absorbed, focusing more on self-maintenance than on the call to mission, and ii) a tendency to “group think”, i.e., a decision-making based more on the preservation of the peace and harmony of the community than on responding to Gospel imperative.
3.1.6. Stage 6: Faith Sharing
At this stage the community members actually begin to share faith openly and directly. By faith sharing, we mean more than just a group of people coming together to say the same prayers at the same time. It is a deeper sharing of their faith, i.e., their personal relationship with and experience of God. Faith sharing demands a climate of trust. The members have to believe they can trust others with the most personal, intimate, and sacred part of themselves, their faith life and experiences. After the community has dealt successfully with conflict and achieved a sense of relative cohesion, there is both a desire and a readiness to share faith. This stage is characterised by a general ambivalence, i.e., the desire to trust coupled with fear. Having shared very intimate details of their lives, people realize how vulnerable they have become and hide behind the mask of conflict or distance for protection. If this is not handled well it can lead to negative consequences. But if it handled well members develop a new trust and openness that free them to deal with conflicts that have been suppressed. Since resistance and fear of vulnerability operate to keep a person from actually sharing faith or prayer, breaking down these defenses frees us to deal with or confront what we could not handle before. So the main task of leadership at this stage is to create a climate where the members feel comfortable sharing this personal, intimate part of themselves.
3.1.7. Stage 7: Intimacy
Now the members are faced with the question of how close they really want to get to one another. This question often evokes a sense of ambivalence, anxiety, and discomfort. We have an urge to share our true feelings, but we fear that by doing so we will make ourselves vulnerable and will be rejected or criticised. As experience shows intimacy is probably the most stressful of all human experiences. In an intimate relationship we are called to step out from behind our facades and expose ourselves in the nakedness of our limitations, weaknesses, and poverties. To do this we need a great deal of love and trust. When intimacy is a reality in community persons mature. When it is resisted or denied as an issue persons will feel isolated. Without others it is difficult to know our own boundaries. It is said that celibacy without intimacy is a dead thing and celibacy without warmth is lethal. Genuine friendship with others is the stepping-off point for growing in intimacy with God. A community at this stage notices a patterned sequence of approach and withdrawal in the members. Members are in search of a level of intimacy and sharing where they can feel comfortable. This is influenced by two key issues: i) discovering a balance among the varying intimacy needs of the different members; and ii) whether or not the individual members have developed some capacity for personal intimacy outside the parameters of the community.
There may be members who, while desiring a high level of intimacy in community, experience constant frustration. They are expecting community to meet intimacy needs that must first be met at a personal level. Given this spectrum, the task is to establish a level acceptable to all members. So in a word we can say that developing one’s personal capacity for intimacy is a foundation for attaining intimacy in community.
3.1.8. Stage 8: Termination
The final stage in all groups is termination. Termination is a difficult but essential stage in the life of every community. This corresponds to the stage of Adjourning according to Tuckman. Termination is usually a difficult and painful experience for the members of the community, especially if they have progressed through the above stages. Termination usually arouses in us a myriad of feelings, many of which are painful. It frequently recalls previous experiences of loss that have not been adequately dealt with or resolved. And so termination precipitate ambivalent feelings. People find it too hard to talk about them directly and more often refer them in a symbolic way. Some people who come to an end of a relationship can handle this termination only by acting as if it had never existed, i.e., a kind of denial. Because termination is often a traumatic experience for the persons involved, especially if the community experience has been a good one. Often those who are left behind feel the greater pain, since those leaving feel an excitement mixed with the loss in going on to something new. But those who are left behind feel only the emptiness. People need to be helped to work through it and not insulate themselves from pain. Failure to work through termination causes serious emotional drains on people. Opportunities need to be provided for people to talk about their feelings in advance of the actual termination. Time is required to work through all the levels of feelings. It is important 1) that the group complete any unfinished business, 2) that the members relive and remember the positive group experiences they have had, 3) that the members integrate what they have received from being part of the group by reflecting and sharing, and 4) that members describe and express constructively their feelings about termination of the group. It is important to ritualize all terminations; without it, grieving is incomplete. The greater the degree of group cohesiveness, the greater the need to talk about and celebrate the termination. Unless a community proceeds through the process of termination, it will not allow new life to be generated within the community.
3.2. Fostering Community Development
Building community is a difficult but worthwhile endeavour. Striving to build community offers true witness to those who search for God. It requires strong commitment and conviction from the part of the members as well as the leader/superior. Where there is no conviction, there is no commitment. In this section I present some elements that affect the development of community and certain conditions requisite for building union of hearts and minds.
3.2.1. Elements affecting Community Development
For community to be more life-giving a few vital issues needs to be taken care of. The first element that needs our attention is the psychosexual development of the members. We see more and more that many members are psychosexually immature and thus incapable of living a generative, life-giving community life. Only individuals who have attained certain level of maturity have the capacity to contribute to and sustain the type of community that is desired. Only when the psychosexual stages are attained is there an assurance that members will have the capacity to live and contribute to a life-giving community. The next aspect that needs to be taken care of is the members’ sensitivity towards the dynamics of the community. The community to become a life-giving one three elements need to be taken care of. They are 1) the community members have a common approach to their mission; 2) they are able to engage in dialogue on a value level; 3) they are able to share faith, which implies that they are able to risk talking about the God in their life. Another important element that affects community development is the self-esteem of the members. When too many members of a community have underdeveloped self-esteem, the community is riddled with high levels of hostility and competitiveness. When most members of a community have fairly well-developed self-esteem, there is minimum of hostility and competitiveness, resulting is a more positive community experience. The development of the community also depends on how they deal with conflicts. Many in the religious communities seem to have an almost innate fear of conflict. The failure to deal directly with conflict often retards the growth of community. Until the members develop a greater comfort and confidence in dealing with conflict, communities are condemned to stagnation. Another important and vital element is the members’ ability to forgive. There is a direct correlation between community members’ ability to forgive and seek forgiveness and the vitality of their community. Initiating the process of forgiveness inevitably seems to have positive repercussions. Next, the most successful communities are those in which the individual gifts of the members are identified, affirmed, and utilized. This leads to growth of the individuals, the improvement of community life, and the effectiveness of the ministry. Finally, when individuals have had positive experiences of community, they will have positive beliefs and feelings in relation to community life. Negative experiences produces people who avoid community. Such people need to be provided with corrective emotional experiences. New, positive experiences can change people from resistance towards their participation in the community.
3.2.2. Certain Qualities Requisite for Building Community
As mentioned earlier Christian community is always a union of minds and hearts focused primarily on the vision of a shared faith experience. There must be an explicitly acknowledged faith vision, religiously experienced by members, that motivates and binds at the deepest level. In religious life, this unifying faith vision is the charism and spirit arising from the founding experience of the particular congregation. To enhance and encourage the members to grow in this experience of community certain qualities needs to be fostered. The first aspect would be the role model exercised by the superior. The superior is seen as a spiritual leader whose authority and presence within the group focuses and calls forth the unity of vision and energy for mission. It is a presence that invites trust and respect from the other members and exercises authority as a result of dialogue and consultation – all prayerfully blessed by the guidance and light of the Holy Spirit. Secondly, what is required is the apostolic humility of heart of each member. True humility is somehow always found on a healthy sense of self. But at the same time we cannot avoid the petty envies and jealousies of our hearts that we find in the communities. Often these emotions, stemming from ambitions and competitive drives, creates divisions and scars in the community life. And these “un-humble” drives and tendencies need to be properly monitored and understood, otherwise they will always violate community. In humility one is able to love others and genuinely rejoice in their accomplishments beyond any comparison and competition. Finally, solitude and contemplation need to be given utmost care and importance. People who are too busy to enter regularly into the solitude of contemplation gradually have less and less to offer in community and lose touch with the richest experience of community. Solitude is the ground from which community grows. In solitude our intimacy with God and each other is deepened. Only by growing and persevering in this faith attitude and vision is union of minds and hearts possible.
3.3. Certain Issues In Community
After discussing the elements that promote and sustain the religious communities as life-giving communities, it is important to focus on certain issues that affect the community in a negative way and how to deal with them. Here again, understanding the underlying dynamics would enable those living in the community to approach the problem in a realistic and fruitful manner. I take up three issues to discuss: i) the phenomenon of transference and countertransference in religious communities, ii) problem people in communities, and iii) intimacy and celibacy in community.
3.3.1. Transference and Countertransference in Community
We have all noticed almost instantaneous reactions to a stranger, either positive or negative, before the other has said or done much of anything. And many times we are not conscious of why we react that way we do. And Psychoanalytic literature has helped us to understand that it is due to the process called transference. Weiner explains the phenomenon of Transference as follows:
Transference consists of the displacement of feelings, attitudes, or impulses experienced toward previous figures in a person’s life onto current figures to whom they do not realistically apply. As such, transference participates to some extent in all interpersonal relationships, because the reactions of one person to another are always subject to the influence of prior interpersonal experience.
We see the similar reactions happening in the religious communities too. The relationship between the superior of the community and its members can evoke such transference reactions. In the same way relationship between members of a religious community can set off schemata based on sibling interactions, and there could be also the transference reaction between a smaller group and the larger congregation. Let us see how this process works between the superior and members in the community. Usually we approach the superiors thinking that they know or will know everything about us and will find us wanting. That is the way we felt about our parents when we were children. When we approach superiors with such feelings we are often nervous and guarded. And the superiors may sense it very well but may not know why so. When attacked by the transference reactions of the members, superiors can easily feel guilty because they did not act properly or perfectly. At such moments if the superior takes a defensive position, things may get out of hand. Trying to understand the person and making him/her understand the dynamic may help. Many a times superiors can also distort relationships through countertransference. Here countertransference could be understood as “displacement by the [superior] onto a [member] of thoughts, feelings, and impulses that are not justified in reality by anything the [member] has said or done.” Here the superior might be reacting to the member out of an old experience he/she had with someone else. Here again the one is at the receiving end need to bring the feeling to the fore. It may not uncover the unconscious dynamic of the superior, but at least it can help both to bring the relationship onto a more realistic and perceptive footing.
The same dynamic could be also noticed among the members towards each other. Our identities, our values, even our perceptions of who we are and what relationships are all about are often inextricably bound up with our attitudes towards our brothers and sisters. Family systems theory brought to focus issues like importance of birth order, a child’s roles and identities in the family, the process of scapegoating, fusing of identities, excessive dependencies in unhealthy family systems, and similar issues. Dynamics that are part of family life replay themselves in religious community. In religious life, it is important to recognize that because of the varied life histories of the members, many different sets of expectations about ideal or intolerable behaviour are operating within the community. So we need to make these expectations conscious and explicit.
In community life changes in apostolate, governance, or life-style affect us all quite differently. Our viewpoints depend on our age, level of maturity, temperament, and needs. As in childhood, we often find it difficult to express our needs and frustrations appropriately. And this affects our community life. Rivalries and jealousies may be carried over from sibling relationships. Attachments and dependencies work in the same way: they can be unwittingly transported into the community, unrecognized by many of the members. Awareness of the patterns forged in early relationships with siblings can be useful in understanding one’s own relationships in community. So sharing life in community presents to all of us a steady stream of opportunities and challenges to continue maturing our lives.
3.3.2. Problem People In Communities
We are very much aware that every religious institute has some members who become so difficult and disruptive that they seriously disturb the peace and harmony of the community and inhibit its ability to carry out the apostolate and become life-giving communities. Many times the real issues are not addressed but the formation program is blamed for such a situation. The underlying problems of a troubled religious were most certainly present when he or she entered the religious congregation. So it would be unfair to blame formation programs for creating paedophiles and sexual addicts, or avoidant, antisocial, or dependent personalities. But at the same time it would be good to probe whether such programs help exacerbate these problems or how they might fail to assist religious in dealing with the unhealthy aspects of their personalities. As with anyone in the society, religious can also develop personality disorders. Let us take a few examples. The paranoid personalities are overly sensitive religious who are easily hurt or offended. They keep everyone on edge; they feel persecuted, misunderstood, and abused. It is easy to understand why it is stressful to work or live with these difficult people. Members with narcissistic personality tend to be ruthless, grandiose, and exhibitionistic. They seek to dominate and control and are extremely exploitative. They lack empathy and are obsessed mainly with their own needs. The passive aggressive members are noted for their resistance to demands for performance both in ministerial and interpersonal functioning. They follow a strategy of negativism, defiance, and provocation, and are unable to make up their minds as to whether to adhere to the demands of others or to resist their demands.  We can add other personality disorders too to this list. So according to their intra-psychic dynamic they interact and affect the effectiveness of community living.
Members with problems of dependence on alcohol equally create problems for the other members in the community. Alcohol intake lowers inhibitions so that deviant tendencies are more readily expressed. Frequently alcohol or chemical dependency may develop because someone is trying to cope with a more serious underlying psychological disorder such as depression, paranoia, paedophilia, confusion about his or her sexual identity, or severe anxiety. Here not only is the health of the addicted individual affected; the abuse of alcohol also affects the religious community and its apostolate. Members with chemical dependencies who also suffer from serious behavioural or personality disorders are not able to deal with their underlying problems until they have achieved sobriety. As is the case, many addicts are in denial and do everything they can to hide their drinking from those with whom they live and associate. So it is important to reflect as to what to be done when problem people are in the community. At some appropriate time, the religious who are disturbing the community or the apostolate with their behaviour must be confronted. Problem religious have to hear the truth, acknowledge then and deal with them. Superiors need to approach the problem in a very delicate and compassionate, but at the same time a firm way. Significant people in their lives can also share with that person their own personal concern for him or her.
3.3.3. Celibacy, Intimacy and “Third Way” Mentality in Community
The question of intimacy pervades the life of any community and is an essential issue for the group to resolve in order to build community. Members bring to community their varying needs and experiences of intimacy. And this question of intimacy is very much connected to the vow of celibacy. Religious celibacy cannot be attractive and effective in the church unless it is seen as essentially involving a relationship of shared life and faith in religious community together with a distinctive relationship with God. But we see that many live this celibacy in a tension-ridden and joyless way. Many develop intimate, romantic relationships outside community which very much interferes with the life and apostolic effectiveness of the community. As in the family, when a religious community try to handle conflicts by withdrawal of affect, i.e., by ceasing to emotionally communicate with each other, the members seek affective contacts outside the community. According to Aschenbrenner S.J., we are gifted with a God-given seductiveness. “The celibate’s aim must not be to suppress or destroy this natural tendency, but to understand it and then to carefully adapt his or her expression of it. This adaptation is motivated and directed by the intimacy and decisive focus of a distinctive companionship with a loving God.” An intimate relationship that carries a person to higher goals, to better behaviour, and to nobler thoughts obviously nourishes personality growth. There is an essential difference between intimacy that turns inward and feeds on itself and intimacy that enhances personal insight and encourages understanding of others. In religious life one must be willing to forgo the deepest human intimacy. One may find and cherish close friends, one may maintain and enrich family ties, one may love and be loved, but deep intimacy is not a characteristic of religious commitment. So it is important that those in community need to recognize the constraints on our intimate relationships. Acknowledging those kinds of relationships that violate celibacy can help us to appreciate even more the clear and inspiring witness that celibacy is meant to be in all types of ministerial relationships. We should not think that genital sexual expression is the only, or even the chief, violation of celibacy. In these false forms of celibate relationship, it is often the unconscious aspects that are the most insidious. One such relationship is the romantic exclusivity of the third way. When this type of mentality takes over in a relationship, not only the celibate companionship with God obscured, but the celibate relationships in community and in ministry is impeded. To be without a marital partner is to bear a wounded emptiness as part of one’s identity. But this wound need not force one to close in on one’s self defensively; it can bring a salvific peace with one’s own suffering because of a belief in God’s love. This is no automatic development, however; it takes grace, faith, and much human development.
The Role of Leadership In Community Dynamics
The preceding chapters we have tried to analyse the dynamics present in the religious communities and how they affect the life and mission of the members. Let us proceed to further develop the role of leaders in this dynamic. The theme would be approached as follows: first a definition and certain aspects of leadership would be presented. Then the leadership style of Jesus would be presented as a model, followed by, the presentation of the styles of leadership, authority, power and leadership and the problems faced by leaders and what could be done.
4.1. Definition of Leadership
“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader.” says Max DePree. But it is very difficult to define what leadership is. A traditional definition of leadership goes as follows, “Leadership is an interpersonal influence directed toward the achievement of a goal or goals.” Three important parts of this definition are the terms interpersonal, influence, and goal. Interpersonal indicates that leadership is exercised between persons. Influence is the power to affect others. Goal is the end one strives to achieve. So we can say that leadership refers to a process of influence whereby a leader persuades, enables, or empowers others to pursue and achieve intended goals of an organization. According to Gibb “a leader may be reliably defined in terms of the extent of his influence within a group.” It explains that the influence of the leader is conditioned by the way in which he is perceived by the members. And Fr.Rulla summarizes the view of Gibb on the role of leadership in a group as follows:
Different forces that play in this field: task orientations of the formal organizations, the systems of authority, the formal and informal goals or the groups, the specific personal values, needs, etc. of the people in the social field. Out of the interaction among these forces the field generates its own peculiar equilibrium in which an important variable is the leadership structure. This structure comprises various roles which a person or persons must fulfil to preserve the equilibrium of the field. The extent to which the individuals are able to attract to themselves a following because of a “fit” between their personal traits and the demands of field forces determines the extent of their influence within the group, i.e. their leadership.
So it becomes clear by now that the relationship between the leader and the community dynamics is interconnected and interdependent. With this understanding of what leadership is, let us proceed to see how Jesus is a model leader par excellence.
4.2. Jesus, The Leader Par Excellence
There is a growing interest at present to study the leadership style of Jesus by business groups to harness the best of leadership qualities and strategies in their endeavour. When the reality is such, it is all the more relevant to see the leadership qualities of Jesus for the religious communities. As we have already seen in chapter 2, while discussing about the apostolic community, we have said that Jesus formed a community with the 12 apostles. For that community Jesus was a visionary leader who had a clarity of vision about what was the purpose of the community, what was the nature of power and authority available to him, how he envisioned the exercise of power and for what purpose etc. Now let me present a few passages from the New Testament to indicate the leadership qualities, his view of power and authority etc. When we read the New Testament the first aspect that strikes us is the servant leadership of Jesus. Servant leadership encompasses seven virtuous constructs: (a) love, (b) humility, (c) altruism, (d) vision, (e) trust, (f) empowerment, and (g) service. Both historically and theologically, Jesus qualifies as an exemplary servant leader. As the memorable refrain says, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). And Ford describes Jesus’ ability to create vision, shape values, and empower change as transforming leadership. And so the way he exercised power and authority was based on these two styles: servant and transforming.
The New Testament presents two concepts of power. It addresses the way authority exercises power through the behaviour and teaching of Jesus, and it begins to redefine power as the activity of God in our midst. All the kingdoms and nations of this present world are governed by the power of domination and force. The structure of the kingdom of God will be determined by the power of spontaneous loving service which people render to one another. In Mark, Jesus puts it this way: “You know that among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone wants to be first among you must be a slave to all. For the son of man himself did not come to serve but to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:42-45, Mk 9:35). In John’s gospel we read, “You call me teacher and Lord, rightly so – if I your teacher and Lord have washed your feet – so also ought you to wash one another” (Jn 13:14). “This is an example of the way power is to be exercised among the disciples – placing ourselves at the service of one another’s freedom, calling forth from one another by our example “kingdom qualities,” and releasing the power of the community in mission.” Jesus is very clear about the difference between domination and service. Jesus consistently attacked the abuse of law. He rejected any interpretation which was used against people. The law was meant to serve genuine human needs and interests. Jesus does not abolish the law, but relativizes it so that we will take responsibility for the systems we create and use them to serve the needs of humanity. So we can say that the leadership style, his use of power and authority etc. are based on Theocentric self-transcendent values, consistency between values, attitudes and needs. With this background let us proceed to see how the leadership in Religious communities operate within the community dynamics and the role they play in it.
4.3. Styles of Leadership
Different authors present various style of leadership. Fr.Rulla tries to evaluate two style of leadership, namely, the authoritarian style of holy uniformity and the laissez-faire style of holy personalism. According to him authoritarian leadership is present when all the determinants of policy, down to the details of behaviour, is done by the leader; and in the case of laissez-faire leadership there is complete freedom of group or individual decision, with no participation or a minimum of leader’s participation. Authoritarian leadership is based on the assumption that people are always “wounded”; laissez-faire on the other hand presumes that they are practically “invulnerable”. “Authoritarian leadership tends to establish in the members the psychodynamic pattern of PsI where attitudes are modelled according to the institutional values and norms regardless of the needs of the individual; laissez-faire leadership is inclined to allow the development of any psychodynamic pattern.” But both styles of leadership “undermine the dignity of man as expressed by his freedom: the authoritarian style because it does not accept the freedom to be wrong; the laissez-faire because it considers man as “de facto” invulnerable and thus without the dignity of responsibility which presupposes freedom.” And as we know these two styles were present in the religious communities before and after Vatican Council II.
Kernberg presents a few style of leadership based on personality characteristics such as paranoid, narcissistic, antisocial etc. He speaks of leaders who can’t say no, the leaders who has to be admired and loved, the leader who needs to be in complete control, the absentee leader, the leaders with affective unavailability or instability and the corrupt leader. Some of these styles may be present also in religious communities. In the same way William M. Kondrath speaks of 4 styles of ministerial leadership such as i) the sovereign style, ii) the parallel style, iii) the semi-mutual style, and iv) the mutual style. These style may help us to an extent to evaluate the way leaders function and their effectiveness. But Fr.Rulla warns that “generalizations in styles of leadership are harmful; for the members of the same group the leader should be able to perceive the basic vocational psychodynamics of each individual and to adapt his leadership to it.” With this consideration let us proceed to another aspect of leadership, i.e., power and authority in leadership.
4.4. Power and Authority in Leadership
Power and authority are interrelated and the way both of them are perceived colours the way one uses them. As we have seen previously leadership exerts “influence”. This influence depends on the presence of different kinds of power available to the leader. According to French and Raven influence stems from six sources: reward, coercive, referent, expert, legitimate and informational. Reward power results from the ability to provide positive reinforcement for desired behaviour. Conversely, coercive power reflects the potential to inflict punishment. In a sense these are not so much two different types of power as they are opposite ends of a continuum. The common and essential element for both reward and punishment is that they are controlled by the “superior” person and are conferred upon subordinates based upon relationships that are less than perfectly aligned with their behaviours. Referent power is a function of the respect and esteem accorded to an individual by virtue of personal attributes with which others identify. By contrast, legitimate power is based upon authority recognized in accordance with position in an organizational structure. Referent power is person-oriented, while legitimate power is depersonalized. Expert power is a form of referent power resulting from recognized expertise while, as defined by French and Raven, informational power is a variation of legitimate power stemming from the ability to control the availability and accuracy of information.It is seldom that only one source of power is operative at a given time, but various combination of power are involved in one influence situation. Now let us see what is authority.
Fr. George B. Wilson, S.J. opines that “authority is an ability to create specific consequences in the life of another.” He speaks of two types of authority: normative or legal authority and operative or relational authority. In normative/legal authority the power of the subjects is restricted largely to choices to be made after the authority figure has acted. Authority in this context is impersonal. Whereas in operative/relational authority, a power that one party possesses by virtue of the other party’s trust. It is a power granted by one party because the behaviour of the other party has earned it. It is always being freely offered and received. Because it is an interpersonal reality, both parties are mutually responsible for its nurturance and growth. And in the context of religious community authority “has and should have the function of directing, coordinating, overseeing, and planning the whole interplay of human activities for the purpose of protecting and fostering the ideals, the potentialities and the duties of individuals” and the goals of the community. Now a question may arise as to how the leader can lead the community towards apostolic effectiveness in mission, which is the goal of any community.
4.5. Apostolic Effectiveness and Leadership
As I have indicated in the introduction, my aim of developing this theme is to see how a leader can understand the community dynamics so as to intervene effectively and then lead the community towards the goals of the community in an effective way. According to Fr.Rulla effectiveness depends on two sets of conditions such as 1) the absence of central vocational inconsistencies or the presence of central vocational consistencies in the intrapersonal dimension; 2) the support of these consistencies by vocationally consistent environments in the interpersonal dimensions. So, here both intrapersonal and interpersonal dynamics are involved. It is important to understand that the “absence of central vocational inconsistencies in the individual allows him “to listen” to the Word of God, to rightly discern, to lose himself in the unselfish love of others, to further internalize vocational attitudes and values and so to reinforce the self by every genuinely free act of self-affirmation.” We can see these vocational consistencies and inconsistencies in small groups too. It is the network of agreements, values, needs, common perceptions and common expectations leads, through verbal and nonverbal communication, to a “culture” of the group. Here the leader needs to play a pivotal role. For the people with inconsistencies which are not deeply preconscious, gratification of their vocationally dissonant needs by the leadership may have very negative after-effects, especially in the long run. And so the leader needs to induce an “optimal” frustration of the dissonant needs that is effective for improving the related conflicts. This does not mean that one needs to indiscriminately deny the gratification of any needs, even when they are not vocationally dissonant. The leader needs to strike a balance here. When a leader strives to lead the community towards apostolic effectiveness they face a lot of difficulties too due to the above mentioned Intrapsychic and interpersonal dynamics. Let us look at some of such difficulties.
4.6. Difficulties Faced By Leaders
For our discussion here I take up two issues: stresses faced by leaders and the resistance they face when they try for some change.
4.6.1. The Stresses of Leadership
Stress is related to leadership in an inevitable way. Moreover, since leaders, by the very nature of their task, are attempting to influence others to strive willingly towards the achievement of the community’s goals, stress will likely arise in the leader as well as the individual members whenever a conflict develops in regard to needs, expectations, or goals. If the leader should encounter resistance, and his goal remains unaccomplished, the loss of power he senses may itself become a threat to his sense of worth, and now he in turn feels stress. Both leader and member may want to achieve the same fundamental goal, but a clash is likely to occur if the preferences of these two with regard to the means to that end are contrary to each other. Under conditions such as these, it is virtually inevitable that both leader and member will wind up feeling frustrated, the former because he will sense that the member is resisting his leadership, the latter because his/her fundamental need remains unfulfilled. Frustration automatically produces anger, one of the unpleasant and painful emotions. Some people handle it by blaming others. Some people, when their wishes are frustrated, become angry and blame themselves for their lack of success in achieving their aims. They become depressed and often experience feelings of guilt or shame as well. The situation could be complicated by unconscious elements, since nobody ever has simply one need at a time, and we are never consciously aware of all our needs or wishes. The leadership style adopted also can add to this stress. It is here that the leader needs to pay attention to the community dynamics and one’s own reactions so as to handle the situation in a healthy, realistic and effective way.
4.6.2. Leadership and Resistance to Change
Yalom, when talking about the basic tasks of the leader in a group, speaks of culture building as one of the main tasks. According to him an “unwritten code of behavioural rules, or norms, must be established that will guide the interaction of the group.” But the same group culture can become a stumbling block to change. People invest considerable physical, intellectual, emotional, and psychological energy into constructing a culture that defines and supports their occupational roles with a comforting sense of security. When change is proposed or imposed by the leader, these roles and sense of personal worth are declared unimportant. That provokes disturbing questions in the members. When cultural predictability is threatened or disintegrates, people can experience the darkness of meaninglessness, a crushing taste of chaos which may lead to a sense of inner lostness. Just as we can react with feeling to physical dirt, so we react to people and ideas that dare to invade our carefully structured world of experienced meaning. So leaders face a lot of resistance from the members when any change is proposed. In this context the defense mechanism of scapegoating could be understood well. People in communities use scapegoating “to explain what cannot be understood, to control the uncontrollable, to account for the problem of evil personally and in [community], and to atone for the “sin” of people who dare to question [community’s] … rules or order. People who identify a scapegoat benefit psychologically – at least in short term. A cause is found, and life’s difficulties become comprehensible. Devaluation of a scapegoat confers a sense of superiority and a feeling of control amid chaos.” So, many times the leaders become scapegoats or a troubled member is designated as the scapegoat.
4.7. The Transforming Role of Leaders
As seen previously, leaders have a transforming role in the community. Let us take up a few issues we have seen so far and see how the leader can deal with such issues. The issues I would like to treat are the power and authority questions, resistance to change, understanding community dynamics etc. According to Gerald A. Arbuckle S.M. a leader has four functions, such as i) a conserving function, i.e. to identify the purpose of a group’s reason for being and to call people to be accountable to it; ii) a management function, i.e. to enforce a framework of order that allows people to get on with their work; iii) an empowering role, i.e. to encourage people to use their talents for the same of the common good; and iv) a proactive role, i.e. to encourage people to respond not just to the symptoms of a problem but also to its roots. This latter function could be also called the transforming role of leadership. And let us see how the leader could face the difficulties faced in the community. With regard to the issues of power and authority, the first thing that a leader has to do is to genuinely listen to the members. To sense that one is not being listened to is to feel like a non-person in the presence of the authority figure. The healthy conferral and acceptance of personal authority require continual soul-searching and struggle for maturity and integrity in both the leader and the members. Sincerity in one’s effort to listen is not enough. Empathy is very much required and a contact with reality. The leaders need to ask themselves whether they know their subjects’ world. Also, however, members must ask themselves how well they comprehend all the forces converging on their leader, who must make complex decisions for the good of the community and its mission. Credibility may not be gained, even by empathic listening, unless the member perceives that the leader genuinely lives out the values that the he/she is expected to embrace. The leaders need to spend their energy also to focus the attention on central issues of the community rather than on trivial matters.
Leaders who have to deal with the community dynamics need to see that the behaviour of each member of the community and his/her own behaviour is guided by values. Values could be defined as “core dispositions that provide normative guidance for who we are and what we are about.” Values according to social psychological theory, are personal monitors of behaviour. Behaviours consonant with one’s value system become internal reinforcers and signify one’s ethical ideals; this in turn helps in construction of a definition of self that seeks and creates self-consistency of one’s attitudes and actions. The leaders have to help communities to review their value systems and the ways personal behaviours reflect these values. The more conscious the person is of his or her value system, the more likely it is that the person will display these values through personal action.
When a leader faces opposition or resistance, there are variety of ways he/she can face the situation. It could range along a continuum, from a more democratic involvement that encourages people to participate in shaping a change, through modelling the change, i.e., demonstrating through example, through persuasion, which means winning people over to advantages of the change, through negotiation, i.e., reviewing ways in which one can meet the concerns of those resisting the change in order to reach a compromise, to using one’s position of authority to impose the change from above. The normal style of decision making should be participative; members will understand that there are times when this is not possible. The more members are involved in what is happening, the less their anxiety and resistance. As already seen, Jesus chose a transforming form of leadership and refused to adopt the authoritarian style of the leaders of the surrounding cultures. “A servant is not greater than his master” (Jn. 15:20).
The analysis done so far indicates that there is an undeniable relation between community dynamics and the way leaders accompanied the community. Any leader must be concerned with improving the quality of ministry and the morale if the organization is to survive and grow. This will involve reducing the conflict, hostility, and inertia that block necessary innovation. Every leader bears the sacred responsibility of vision and the equally sacred responsibility of administration. They are essentially related. All those engaging in the leadership dynamic must respect each individual within the community and work for change that they believe will raise their congregation to higher levels of motivation and apostolic effectiveness. Leaders should see that the community is founded on relational power if it is to be a counterculture that repudiates the unilateral power of the society in which it is the leaven. When a community of men or women is striving to maintain a proper balance of quiet solitude and loving interaction, it can provide a basic psychosocial peace and satisfaction whereby all the members are able to feel most “at home” in their local community. Finally we can say that life in community is an incarnational encounter in which we proclaim through our earthly existence the coming of God’s kingdom. By being sensitive to and aware of the human conditions that allow us to care for each other, we help to create a world where that Kingdom becomes more real.
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A definition found from http://www.community4me.com/comm_definitions.html.
Cf. K. KING, Group Dynamics for the Online Professor, an Internet article accessed from http://ausweb.scu.edu.au/aw99/papers/king/paper.html; Also Cf. L. COOPER, J.P. GUSTAFSON, “Planning and Mastery in Group Therapy: A Contribution to Theory and Technique” In Human Relations, 32 (1979), 689-703.
John Paul II, address to plenary session of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Nov. 20, 1992, No. 3, L’Osservatore Romano (English ed.), Dec. 2, 1992.
 This section on stages of Group development is a summary of the following two articles: cf. R. HAMMETT, L. SOFIELD, Inside Christian Community, Le Jaccq Publishing Inc (1981), 11-29 & C. JULIANO, R . HAMMETT, L. SOFIELD, Building Community, Ave Maria Press Inc (1998), 24-33.
Here it is good to recall the contribution of Salvador Minuchin who speaks of Boundaries in families, which can very well contribute to the understanding of conflicts in communities. He speaks of three types of boundaries: rigid boundaries, clear boundaries and diffuse or enmeshed boundaries. For a detailed account see S. MINUCHIN, Families and Family Therapy, Harvard University Press (Campridge 1974), 53-56.
 Cf. J. GARRY, The Wisdom of Jesus & Societal Crises, downloaded from http://www.presence.tv/cms/wisdom_jesus.php