Skilled guides: Leadership through accompaniment (Series 6)

The guide must have walked and continue to walk the journey in his/her person. He or she must have a clear vision of the world around him and yet have a clear vision of what can be. He/she must have the personal integrity and freedom to lead through his/her person, and not through authoritarian structures.

The guide must be a person of compassion and empathy able to articulate both the pressures and forces at work in our lives and the vision of another way of living. He/she must have a listening heart so that the participants are aware that the guide knows intimately of the personal sufferings and cultural pressures upon each one of them. As the participants move towards autonomy the guide must be able to stand back in a quiet, patient, and unassuming manner. Attitudinal change is a slow process. The guide needs to collaborate with fellow guides on this journey of ‘walking with people. There is a difference between collaboration and teamwork. Teamwork divides up the work for reasons of efficiency and convenience. Collaboration involves a certain personal vulnerability in performing the task in hand together so that others can see the quality of the relationship which can inestimably contribute to the building up of the atmosphere or people-environment required. In this, we are working with people rather than for them. We call this leadership through accompaniment.

As the participants move towards autonomy the guide must be able to stand back in a quiet, patient, and unassuming manner. Attitudinal change is a slow process. The guide needs to collaborate with fellow guides on this journey of ‘walking with people. There is a difference between collaboration and teamwork. Teamwork divides up the work for reasons of efficiency and convenience. Collaboration involves a certain personal vulnerability in performing the task in hand together so that others can see the quality of the relationship which can inestimably contribute to the building up of the atmosphere or people-environment required. In this, we are working with people rather than for them. We call this leadership through accompaniment.

Every Young Farmer and every Young Single Woman participant has one of the eight staff married couples as their leader. The couple sits with the young male or female farmer and listens to the detailed plan of what they will do and expect, or what has happened, succeeded, failed, before and after going home in the five weeks’ oscillation. Each couple has six Young Farmers to lead/listen to whose farm blocks are in the same section as theirs so that they meet them informally often and in a common working environment and space. This enables them to wander across and look at each other’s plot and chat informally. This is where the story comes out. They are on the ground, they are boss. The couples are the listeners. This is where real non-judgmental listening happens. This is really about relationships at home – their life and story where they have never had listening but have had to unravel and have reacted. This is the heart of human development for us. This is about self-image. It is about their agenda, their hurts, and their pains.

Each week when the Young Farmers are working on farms with farm staff, core staff couples meet for half a day to share factual information about the individuals in their group about what they have done in gardening, personal information which may be affecting the behaviour of any individual, and any other obstacles that we all need to be sensitive to which may be affecting the young man or young woman. So we are discerning, sifting through and this is why in the group context there is a safety net as the person can be heard. We have good people who know how to discern.

In all of this discipline is required – adult discipline. Both the guide and the participants need to be involved in drawing up the steps to discipline. The process of appropriation/internalisation and the reasons for structures need to be known by both. Accountability needs to be clear from the beginning of the course, especially with the Young Farmers or the Young Single Women. The qualities of the guide will be most tested with young adults. Working with youth comes naturally to no one (unless we mistakenly become one of them). Youth require the most dedicated of guides. The words and concept discipline and discipleship are thus closely intertwined.