I was talking with someone today about the fact that leaders are weird. A leader is someone who lives in the same context as others but thinks differently about it than most everyone else. Socially speaking, this can come across in awkward ways.
Leaders may not seem to care about the things you think are important. It sounds mean and heartless, but the leader sees what you do not; there are things that go on in other spheres that may be 10 times as crucial to the mission and health of the organization. A good leader will listen and consider, but that doesn’t mean that every request you make out of your concern will come to be. My job as a follower in this situation is to make my concern known and to then let it be weighed out by someone who knows more than me.
Leaders may seem stressed, and that’s not usually good. But you’ve got to hand it to them — they carry a load that is not truly and fully known by anyone but them. Transparency is good and a support system is even better. Leaders need others around them to help carry the load; if they don’t set themselves up with this, then they only have themselves to blame before the fall. Everyone has bad days, and we need someone to helps us through, especially leaders. When I have a bad day, I tend to get tired, snippy, negative, etc. — and that may be because my stapler is jammed. The leader may be acting the same way, not because of a jammed stapler but because budget cuts mean someone is going to lose their job. Your role in that situation is to be supportive and encouraging. Don’t add to their load. Bring up the stapler problem later, or fix it yourself.
Leaders have a hard time unwinding. When your brain is so entrenched with the what what of the organization, it’s hard to just jump out of that mode. There are places where I lead and places where I follow. The leadership posts are the things that keep me up at night, enter my mind at the strangest of times (I need to figure out if we’re going to do a retreat or not — which is what crossed my mind while watching “Fraiser”). The places where I follow have much more freedom, which means I can watch Fraiser without worrying about stuff. Leaders have a problem, and that problem is that, well, it’s their problem. It’s always their problem. My role as a follower is, again, to support and make sure that I’m covering my bases, which brings peace to the leader. And, as a leader, I need to be out of the zip code for at least three days before I can truly feel disconnected and out of the trench. The unwind is critical to my ability to go back and lead well. And to watch reruns of Fraiser.
Leaders often seem aloof. Disconnected. Lost. Their brains have cogs that run at different speeds and gear ratios than ours. Do they have permission to not care? Absolutely not. Leaders must care; that’s their job. But part of that caring is to be thinking 1 or 2 or 71 steps ahead, which, quite frankly, takes an incredible amount of mental energy. I never thought that, as a leader, part of my job would be to go on a walk and think out loud about the coming ministry season. I do my best thinking when I’m walking alone (literally). Yet, I have had the best ideas while walking with others (figuratively). Leaders seem aloof, but they can’t stay aloof. To lead reality they must be connected. Aloof for a time, but then back to the “think tank”, which is where ideas are tested, and which leads to the last thing…
Leaders need a think tank. A think tank is where people gather and banter about ideas. In my office at the church, I get to share a large open space with 3 other people who serve in the same ministry area. I love it. We end up think tanking almost every day, running ideas past each other, thinking out loud to another informed human being, and just hearing our ideas tossed back at us. It’s good. I really can’t imagine being stuck in an office by myself anymore. I once thought that the think tank would still work because people would drop by. But, to my surprise, think thanking happens accidentally and by chance. We just happened to be talking about something we saw in Church Production Magazine, which led to an idea for stage setup. Would that have happened if we were in separate rooms? Probably not. I need that time, where my walking aloof comes back to earth and I can say “You know, I was thinking about this…“. Leaders must have a place where they can collaborate and share the thought process. We are often brought to the light in this kind of setting. Plus, it saves energy, footsteps and e-mails.
It was John Maxwell himself who introduced the whole idea of “leadership” to me. I studied it for my Master’s degree. I have tried to live it out in the past 10 years of ministry. I feel like I’m just now coming to grips with what practices are important, and why leaders act the way they do. It is because leaders are weird that it can never be about the leader. Amen? May God be honored by godly leadership that, above all personality quirks, points people to Him.
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