Tonight I listened to the latest Chariots of Iron podcast, and there was an interview with author Darrel Ray (author of The God Virus).   Dr. Ray has helped start many “Recovering Religionists” groups across North America, and I’ve been in touch with him about our own Café Apostate group.  I was expecting this interview to be mainly about these support groups, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear him give some insights into leadership, especially within the secular non-believing community.

He’s a organizational psychologist, with 30+ years of experience helping corporations and non-profit groups deal with leadership/team issues, so I think he’s got some footing to take into consideration. What struck me about the podcast interview was when Ray said: “[freethinking leaders] need to learn to deal with conflict in an emotionally intelligent way.”

Just by virtue of being a human being, conflict is an inevitable part of life.  And the older I get, the more I’m realizing that it’s  HOW conflict is dealt with that makes all the difference.  I found a blog post Ray wrote, and his thoughts sum up nicely some of the issues I’ve personally felt and noticed within the larger freethinking community:

We need to develop leadership in the Secular community. Too many secular groups are fragmented and less organized and effective than they could be. Much of this can be traced to conflict management skills among secular leaders. All groups encounter conflict, if managed well, it leads to organizational vitality. If ignored or mismanaged, it leads to fragmentation and animosity.

Some people speak of conflict resolution, I generally see conflict management as the real issue. Conflict is a positive force if viewed in that light and is rarely totally resolved. In fact, I become suspicious if people say a conflict has been totally resolved. What is more likely is they have just found a way to hide it better and it will come back with a vengeance eventually. If it is viewed as a power struggle with winners and losers, it becomes a never ending cycle of wasted creativity and energy. It takes emotionally intelligent leaders to recognize and manage conflict towards organizational vitality. [my emphasis]

Leadership in the Secular Community
Darrel Ray

What he said.