I came into leadership honest. It’s, seemingly, just in my genetic makeup. I played team sports growing up year-round. I typically found myself in places where I was seen and heard. Growing up, if you find yourself in those situations, you end up thinking that’s all there is to it. There’s this sort of prideful privilege to your walk and talk.
It doesn’t take many days tying up your size eleven, men’s, Walmart brand shoes, pulling your belt as hard as you can to thread it on the very last loop, taking your next dose of Tylenol PM trying to get adequate sleep, to realize that the realities of being a leader in the adult world will quickly deteriorate your fantasies of a fantastical experience at what everyone wants you to believe is the top.
My time, as an adult, has mostly been spent in spiritual/church leadership. The last 7 years in this world has been much different than anything I’ve experienced as a leader... most of all as a person. I’ll spare you the gory details and get right to what I’ve got on my mind today. While there are many things I’ve learned, one thing I’ve more or less endured rather than learned, I suppose, is that leadership (as it stands generally) has an ebb and flow and some specific things come to mind that have helped me to “endure and learn” about this ebb and flow that I hope help you in your journey:
1. We are all leading someone, somewhere, in some way.
For anyone out there, reading this, who feels like they aren’t making a difference in a significant way in the world for anyone, think again. Personally, I am a believer of Jesus Christ. I’m not gonna go super reverend on you here, but my faith tells me that I should be a “city set on a hill.” Why? Because the world is watching. Understand this: as much as people claim they are too busy to worry about anyone else, all of us are looking for models of humanity that help us live out a better way. Be the better way. Know you’re significant.
2. Use the ebb to inform your flow.
Or, er, something catchy that means to use difficulties to accelerate the effect and result of the successes. Listen to me, Leader: you are going to have bumps in the road, people are going to leave you, people are going to dislike you (some won’t even know the real you), business is going to slow down, and you’re going to face unfathomable pressure.
It can seem pretty bleak and useless to even want to try at times based on the ratio and intensity of the difficulties versus the victories. But, if you’re truly going to lead people, your value is derived from your reaction to the difficulties and setbacks, not the easy places or victories. How are you leading in the darkness?
3. You celebrate those victories. You better celebrate them hard.
Love and appreciate the people you lead and the job they do. The victory is not yours. It belongs to the group of people you lead. If you’re not taking all the blame and giving all of the praise, your leadership isn’t going to be very meaningful and likely will not be very effective either. Take time to really appreciate the places that beam with success. On its heels comes another mountain. Another place of pressing in. Enjoy the good things and do it right with the people that made it happen.
Bonus: Leadership is more about your humility than your creativity.
Yeah, you may be pretty impressive, but are you still teachable? The stage is nice, but do you know where the mop or the garbage dumpster is? If you don’t understand why I’m asking those questions, I suggest you check your leadership pulse.
Don’t be so arrogant to think that you’re the savior. If you remember nothing else, remember this: you’re a servant. Until you understand humility and regard the value of the least as important as the greatest, you’ll never lead effectively.
Good talk. Hope you’ll come by again sometime soon.