Leadership and Vision in Risk
The focus of Australian Story on Monday 20 August 2018 (http://www.abc.net.au/austory/leading-the-way/10129182) is the extraordinary work of the Wayside Chapel, Kings Cross Sydney. The story is about leadership, vision and how to humanize people. At the Wayside Chapel they don’t believe ‘harm is a choice you make’ but ‘there but for the grace of god go I’. The language of the Wayside is about ‘love over hate’, ‘a place where there is no us and them’ and about ‘meeting not fixing people’. This vision has been provided by Graham Long for the last 14 years and now to be continued by Jon Owen.
I remember when Graham first arrived at Wayside the place was little more than a drop-in centre and most of the buildings were condemned. The theatre (pictured below) was the base of many parts of the building that were condemned because of fire or incongruence with the Building Code. Indeed, I remember doing a risk assessment for Graham in the first few weeks and it was overwhelming. Where to start?
But leadership is not about ‘fixing objects’ but providing vision for people and that is what Graham does. When people catch a vision, they can envision anything even finding love for the unlovely. You can read about the extraordinary work of Wayside Chapel here:
You don’t come to the Wayside and experience the ‘need’ to be ‘fixed’. The Wayside is a place where you will be ‘met’. Wayside is a place where street people, harm, risk, the homeless and substance abuse is understood and tackled without judgment or blame. It’s extraordinary success is testimony to the power of Graham’s philosophy and vision.
The Wayside know all about risk. The Wayside know all about life and death. Funerals are conducted weekly, and yet you won’t hear much talk about harm and safety. At the Wayside they don’t talk about ‘saving lives’ but about ‘meeting’ people, relationships and learning and, this vision is life changing http://www.abc.net.au/news/programs/one-plus-one/2017-11-23/one-plus-one:-rob-holt/9185774). The key to meeting and listening is suspending agenda and withholding judgment.
The work of the Wayside is not done by checklists and much of what they do is not counted. You can’t count what counts and everything that can be counted doesn’t count. At the Wayside they pursue higher order goals not lower order goals (https://safetyrisk.net/target-trade-offs-and-numeric-goals/). When you have a vision for relationships and people and the best interests of others, numerics is nonsense.
You won’t find much about the Philosophy of Wayside in management texts indeed, much of Graham’s philosophy is the outworking of the work of Martin Buber (https://archive.org/stream/IAndThou_572/BuberMartin-i-and-thou_djvu.txt). There is nothing more powerful in leadership than a vision to humanize people.
So, if you are up for learning about leadership and risk, perhaps watch Australian Story on Monday 20 August 2018 (http://www.abc.net.au/austory/leading-the-way/10129182).