Sunday, October 9, 2005

The Coriolis Effect: A Model for Shared Leadership

[I've been asked a few times about Westwinds' model of shared leadership - so, here is our broad, guiding document for you all to enjoy]

There is power in metaphor. A metaphor unlocks the imagination and gives new sight to those blinded by a tired reality and the cataracts of the ordinary. At Westwinds, metaphors have been used to elucidate who we are as a church and why God has placed us in Jackson.

Even our name, Westwinds, is a metaphor. A west wind is created in two ways: first, through the uneven heating of the earth by the sun,[1] and second, through The Coriolis Effect. The Coriolis Effect[2] is the pulling in of a moving object that creates speed in air movement. It is a result of the elliptical shape of the earth’s orbit which pulls the planet around the sun and causes wind.[3] Because the earth is a sphere, air moves along the circumference of the planet resulting – at high times – in cyclones. Other examples of The Coriolis Effect include the twirls of a figure skater, the motion of a pendulum, and the trajectory of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

In our efforts to best serve the people of Westwinds Community Church, the elders and lead pastors have agreed upon a model of shared leadership based upon The Coriolis Effect. It is our desire to create new wind movement, to align ourselves with the orbit of the sun, and to work together to ensure that the future of our church is exciting and secure.

Shared leadership is not a new concept. Biblically we see the examples of Joshua and Caleb,[4] Moses and Aaron,[5] Peter, James and John,[6] and the Holy Trinity as examples of the good sense and health in wise counsel, strong contribution, and open communication between leaders. Historically, shared leadership has also proven to be an innovative way to lead people forwards. The Spartans had two kings in ancient Greece, and the Romans elected dual consuls to lead them prior to the Roman Empire. Other historical examples include the partnership of the Wright brothers and that of Microsoft co-founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen.[7]

Coriolis will serve as the lead position of paid staff at Westwinds. In contrast to the traditional model of a senior pastor, Coriolis will offer a broader perspective on staff issues and church-wide initiatives while maintaining the creative impulse necessary for Westwinds’ ethos to be both protected and evolving. In this model Randy Shafer will serve as the Coriolis: Journey, David McDonald as the Coriolis: Narrative, and John Voelz as the Coriolis: Experience, signifying both the unity among Coriolis as leaders of one mind and the diversity required of the individuals to oversee specific arenas of ministry. In short, Coriolis is unity in leadership and dreams.

While we recognize that there is some risk inherent with shared leadership and Coriolis, we also recognize that the potential for success outweighs the apprehensions of slow decision-making and unfamiliarity. With Coriolis our chief tasks have become the management of new ideas, fresh vision and enthusiasm, and the growing wonder of what God is doing in the city of Jackson and with His people.

It is good for us all to remember that we are not the Cause, but we are part of the Effect.

[1] Because of the planet’s orbit around the sun [placing almost half of the planet at any given time is further away from the sun’s rays], and because of the bulges at the poles and the equator the earth is closer in some places at some times to the sun. This results in greater heat transfer. When the warmer air from the closer areas meets the cooler air from the further areas wind is created.
[2] For a full description of The Coriolis Effect, including the formulae and history of the research pending, see the Wikipedia article “Coriolis Effect” found at
[3] As low pressure systems are formed and begin to pull air into themselves, a vacuum is created. This vacuum causes air that was moving north [as an example] to also be brought slightly west, thereby creating a slow loop. This loop is known as cyclonic pressure, the fundamental requirement for a cyclone, and a textbook example of the Coriolis Effect at work.
[4] Cf. Numbers 14, 26, and 32.
[5] Cf. Exodus 4 & 5
[6] Historically we understand that Peter became the first leader of the church, James the pastor of the mother church in Jerusalem, and John the leading prophetic voice for the Christian people.
[7] Paul Allen resigned his post as co-head of Microsoft Corp. in 1983 while battling Hodgkin’s disease.

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