Tuesday, May 23, 2006

It's (Not) Your Thing

I just completed a course on leadership. (You will all bow before me!) One of our assignments was to come up with proverbs related to leadership--little truisms that we've come across in our travels. I immediately and persistently recalled something a friend of mine said about six months into his tenure as senior pastor of his church:

"Being a leader means not getting to do what you want."

I never shared it in my leadership course, because I think it would have derailed discussion somewhat. But I would like to hear what other people thing about it: Is my friend right? Is he way off base? When does a leader get to do what he or she wants, and when does what he or she wants get in the way? And how does this quote relate to our earlier discussion of delegation (see "Delegators in the Sewers"; I can't believe I'm bringing this up after being spanked about it by almost everyone I know).

Please comment freely. I'm looking forward to hearing what you have to say.

7 comments:

Pete Juvinall said...

Being a Leader does not equal being a tyrant; the difference between the two is that a leader doesn't get to do what he/she wants simply because they need to put others first.

Pragmatically, it's not because they want to be more spiritual or even follow Christ's example it's simply because if you don't put others first they won't follow you - the impression will be that they don't have their interests in mind.

Tyrants, on the other hand, have only their interests in mind. They get to do what they want...

David A. Zimmerman said...

In 24 terms, President David Palmer is a leader; President Charles Logan is a tyrant. That's if you assume leadership is a virtue rather than a condition. In another sense, both Palmer and Logan are leaders; it's just that Palmer is good and Logan is EVIL!

If leadership is an act of influence, then isn't it inherently getting people to do what you want them to do, which is at least sort of getting what you want?

Al Hsu said...

Being a leader can mean that you don't get to do what you want because you are empowering and equipping others to do the actual work. So what you want to get done will still get done - you just don't get to do it yourself.

I suppose it's also that when you're in a leadership role, you have the larger organization's interests in mind, not just your own. So you will do things on behalf of the organization that may or may not be what you want to do, but is what is right for you to do because of your role in the organization.

David A. Zimmerman said...

Do only people in leadership roles have the larger organization's interests in mind, or is it fidelity to the larger organization's interests that characterizes leadership? Again, is leadership a virtue or a condition?

Oh, it's probably both. I keep forgetting I'm postmodern.

Al Hsu said...

I didn't mean to imply that others besides leaders don't care about the overall organization. It's just that those in positional leadership bear the responsibility for the success of the whole organization. If I fail at my job (as a non-leader), it's not that big a deal for the organization - I can be replaced. But if a department head or vice president fails at his or her job, entire divisions could be cut, or the whole company could go under. If I conk out as a worship team pianist, it might create some kerfuffles to rearrange schedules and find others to fill in. But if I'm the pastor and I lead the church into a ditch, people could abandon the faith and the whole congregation could fold up shop.

I realize that I'm commenting mostly on positional/role/condition leadership rather than virtue/character trait leadership. Yes, it's both, but I'm not so sure that leadership is really the character trait/virtue that many Christians make it out to be. Scripture says far less about "leadership" per se as a quality than it does about servanthood, followership, discipleship, etc. If anything, it seems like there are plenty of cautions against aspiring to leadership. I prefer to think in terms of "influence" than "leadership." I like being able to influence outcomes without bearing the weight of full responsibility if things tank.

At any rate, like everything else, it all goes back to calling and vocation. Best, I think, to lead only if you are called to lead. The challenge is discerning whether we are really called, and in what spheres.

Pete Juvinall said...

Al Said:

"I like being able to influence outcomes without bearing the weight of full responsibility if things tank."

I'm with you on that one...

Influence for me is a big trait to leadership.

Maybe I have a positive affect that I attach to that term, but personally leadership usually ties with it looking up to that person. Yes, Charles Logan is (was...haha) technically a leader, but I wouldn't see him as one (e.g. he's not leading me anywhere).

BTW, I thought the closing scene with the casket being put on the plane on Monday night was stellar...

--pete

David A. Zimmerman said...

Oh man, with Palmer being ceremonially buried and Logan being carted off to prison? That was tremendous. I read yesterday that the guy who plays Aaron (Secret Service) ad libbed the line when he addressed Logan as "Charles" instead of "Mr. President."