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One explanation is the phenomena and power of homeostasis. Whenever a leader attempts to bring about change, they will most certainly encounter resistance, if not outright sabotage. While we can find some comfort in the notion that reactivity is unimaginative and, therefore, predictable, sabotage has a thousand faces. The fun thing about sabotage (if one can be non-reactive about it), is that while we can expect it, we will always be surprised at the forms it takes. Most of us never see it coming.
Here’s an example. The preacher was annoyed because an older man fell asleep during his sermon every Sunday morning. So he said to the man’s grandson one day, “If you can keep your grandfather awake, I’ll pay you a quarter every week.” The ruse worked for two weeks. The older man was alert and listened to the sermon. But on the third Sunday, the preacher found that the older man had fallen asleep again. After the service, the preacher sent for the boy. “I’m disappointed. Didn’t I promise you a quarter a week to keep your grandfather awake?” asked the preacher. “Yes,” replied the grandson, “but Grandpa gives me a dollar a week not to disturb him.”
Homeostasis resists change. Every move toward change is met with a counter-move in the form of resistance, sabotage, entrenchment, confrontation, opposition, passive-aggressive strategies, or sheer stubbornness. Experienced leaders never underestimate the power of homeostasis to reestablish systemic equilibrium.
Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at the Columbia Theological Seminary. He directs the Pastoral Excellence Program at Columbia seminary. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer & Don Reagan, and Leadership in Ministry: Bowen Theory in the Congregational Context. His books on education include Academic Leadership: Practical Wisdom for Deans and Administartors, Mastering the Art of Instruction,The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), and Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice Press).