Of Influence, Change, and Loss

I’ve been refreshing my mind on adaptive leadership of late, as some significant changes are happening in my job. Three themes are on my heart today, and when something is on my heart I will loos sleep until I write about it.


I’ve been placed in a position of great influence, pretty much by accident (on my part.) But I am aware of the power I now hold and have been prayerfully processing how best to use this in grace, challenge and love. Influence must never been abused, and must always be used selflessly and with wise discretion.

There is another term for this kind of influence – most of the terms are nouns. Some call it a “power-broker” (I first heard this when I read the book “Transitioning” by Dan Southland). PBS went so far as to call it “The Merchants of Cool” in one of their best episodes. Some simply may call them influencers or leaders.

I call it terrifying.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the last six weeks or so asking God and asking my friends, “Why me?” Once I realized God was calling me into this place of influence that I never intended to be in, I was brought to my knees. I’ve never been ambitious career-wise. i have firmly believed that God will place where he wants me. I have, however, always been a leader in the midst of conflict. (I’m terrible on the fly, but give me time to think and prepare to deal with a conflict – that’s something I understand how to do.) This doesn’t make it any less terrifying.

Heifetz, Grashow and Linsky wrote a great book through Harvard Business Press called “The Practice of Adaptive Leadership” and one of  the many great truths I’ve been processing today is how people view change. Most people, according to their research, don’t fear change. They fear the loss that accompanies it.

Change and Loss

The resistance that comes when change is proposed actually stems from a fear of loss.This is a game-changer, especially in a church culture. Churches are notorious for being slow to change and some churches deserve this reputation. Some do not. I’m currently in a church culture that typically embraces change – mainly due to its transient culture of people – but also because the changes we make are changes that disrupt the culture too much. I think that its here we find the challenge of loss.

Change that doesn’t disrupt too much doesn’t bring much loss. But this begs the questions: is it truly change? If there is not loss of the ways things use to be, then aren’t we still holding on deeply to a structure or purpose that may still be lurking in the background, but that shouldn’t be lurking there?

As leaders seek to practice adaptive change within the ministry and mission of the church, we cannot and must not lose an understanding any of all three: change, loss and influence. All three must be used wisely, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to fulfill the mission of the church for God’s people.
I am fearful of my own loss right now. This is my revelation for this moment. I am fearful of the loss that may come in this job that – while I wasn’t entirely comfortable in – I still felt like I had footing in. This will likely be changing soon. I am fearful the loss of my own comfort in that.

I’m just going to say it: boo.

2 Comments on “Of Influence, Change, and Loss

  1. “Change that doesn't disrupt too much doesn't bring much loss. But this begs the questions: is it truly change?”

    Love that question Stephanie!

    In my experience, generally speaking, the only kind of change that really brings change is the kind that inflicts suffering of some sort. Not that I want that kind of change mind you. ツ


  2. Very insightful. Loss often leads to suffering, and if change includes loss, then, well, that equation works out, now doesn't it? 🙂


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