The Dirt on Leading

The wise lead by example, but the foolish lead with their mouths.jpg

When I was little, I watched my elders, my teachers, coaches, parents..pretty much anyone older than me, and thought, "I can't wait to be in charge of myself. It must be nice to be able to tell someone what to do rather than being told." I thought this is what it meant to be an adult. I thought this is what it meant to lead.

Now I'm that "elder," I've learned that's not what leadership is about. There's a difference between leading and being in charge. There's a difference between leading and dictating. The wise lead by example, but the foolish lead with their mouths.

Have you ever watched the show Undercover Boss? The enticement of this drama is that it takes the suit-and-tie CEO out of the office and puts him or her to work. This brilliant concept is obviously uncomfortable for the boss, but it forces him or her to see his ideas and policies at work. They are able to see the product of their dreams through the eyes of the people who labor to bring them to fruition. This exercise helps "the boss" discover what policies and processes need to be adjusted.

In a thriving organization, responsibilities are ever increasing. As a leader, it's tempting to disconnect from the people you're leading to stay on top and work harder. A certain amount of disconnect is necessary so that we're not hovering; we can do our job and they can do theirs. However, too much disconnect gives our mind's eye a false perception of the organization and the people we're leading. People only follow a disconnected leader for so long before their hearts either start to worship or resent said leader. 

Truly courageous leaders are brave enough to investigate their organization's weakness because they know a weakness in his or her organization may be a reflection of his or her leadership. Weak leaders avoid their people, while strong ones are willing to associate and serve them. The wise lead by example, but the foolish lead with their mouths.

Consider Jesus' life. He was willing to eat with tax collectors and sinners, to sit by a well and talk to a Samaritan woman (an outcast), to make a journey across the Sea of Galilee to deliver a demon-possessed man, to wrestle with a stubborn leader named Jacob, to bargain with Abraham over Lot's life, to save a woman caught in adultery from death, to restore Peter when he chose cowardice over bravery, and to serve us by dying a torturous death. Jesus' life example led the New Testament believers and it still leads us today. I wonder what message our lives are sending to the people around us?

Here's the truth: 

  • Leading people is messy because we are sinners.
  • Leading people is stressful because we want to succeed.
  • Leading people is confusing because we doubt ourselves.
  • Leading people feels impossible because we're all capable of failure. 

Here's an even greater truth:

  • Even the son of man did not come to be served, but to give His life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45 
  • Leading isn't about being served, but serving. This is a harder way to lead, but produces a greater team which yields healthier fruit.
  • Leading isn't about me paving a path for others to walk through, but about finding the right people to pave it with you.

Whew! I know this is a heavy blog, but leadership is hard and we have to talk about hard things sometimes in order to become better servers! What do you think? I want to hear your thoughts, so let's discuss.

Please know I will be praying you move forward in your faith (and in your serving) until next time!