Journal of Christian Ministry | Narratives of Leadership Anxiety
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Narratives of Leadership Anxiety

Narratives of Leadership Anxiety

Narratives of Leadership Anxiety: Constructing a Story-formed Conversation For Managing Pastoral Dynamics (CJM, Vol. 1 – 2009)
Jack Holland
Professor of Christian Care and Counseling
Doctor of Ministry Program Director
Emmanuel School of Religion

“But what I felt most was my being a stranger to the ship; and if all the truth must be told, I was somewhat of a stranger to myself. The youngest man on board (barring the second mate), and untried as yet by a position of the fullest responsibility, I was willing to take the adequacy of the others for granted. They had simply to be equal to their tasks, but I wondered how far I should turn out faithful to that ideal conception of one’s own personality every man sets up for himself secretly.” (The Captain in Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer”)

So begins the portrayal of an anxious young captain, commanding his first ship, coping with the intimidation he feels in relation to his new crew.

Will they respect his authority? As the second youngest on board the ship will his youth and inexperience be questioned by the more seasoned veterans of the sea? In the end will he have proven, even to himself that he is capable of being the leader he has always imagined himself to be? The brilliance of the story by Conrad is in his presentation of the captain facing the insecurity of his new role vacillating between extremes of self-doubt and self-protection. As the story unfolds the self-protective strategies of the captain only serve to reinforce his self-doubt creating a crisis in his role as the ship’s commander and threatening the safety of the entire ship and its crew.