Leadership can often be misconstrued to be all about control, power, and competition. Not that this is always bad, it’s just quite often a realty. Though we may strive to be “servant leaders” within this world, we can quite often get caught up in controlling outcomes, and working agendas and activities to best generate growth, profits, and progress.
We might even find ourselves striving for platforms of change through power and by climbing the “corporate ladder”. Assuming that with more power we will also gain more control to make change, make more money, and achieve more advancement.
And of course, we engage in both internal and external competition. For we quickly learn and realize that competing to be the best and the brightest also wins us more business, and helps us get more rewards and recognition.
While these leadership realities may serve to be stimulating, fulfilling, and motivating, they can also be exhausting, and taxing at the same time.
However, as my relationship with Christ has matured, He has orchestrated some various leadership roles outside the corporate environment to help soften and break my heart to some leadership traits that have stretched beyond any servant leadership principles I ever knew – and He used His church to do it.
Frankly, it hasn’t been easy. For my heart, and motivations have been tested, examined, refined, and redefined as I “served” to lead within my church.
Three lessons convict the most. For they run counter cultural and require the most vulnerability and personal exposure I have ever experienced. Rather than leading by control, power, and competition, it was all about serving through care, compassion, and connection.
1. Care over Control. For example, how much did I truly “care” for others, their welfare, and their needs versus my own desire to “control outcomes”? Our need for control is powerful, but when we surrender our drive to not be distracted by our need for control, but rather our willingness to care, the impact is much more beneficial to all involved.
2. Compassion over Power. The motivation for power has to be refined to be more about compassion. So, rather than gaining an honored platform of self promotion, I learned it was much more about my heart being exposed and examined to allow the opportunities of leadership to serve more as platforms. Platforms where greater degrees of compassion could be extended towards others, and myself, amidst a pool of mutual imperfections, and struggles.
3. Connection over Competition. Lastly, in lieu of competition, individual performance, and outdoing others, it was all about building connections among a sea of diversity. This diversity of thought, tastes, and tasks tested my willingness to be vulnerable; and to share my imperfections in order to care deeper, become less judgmental, and ultimately more compassionate, in order to build connectivity rather than breed competition with and among others.
Thankfully, these lessons have proved invaluable and are even transferable in the business world. For if there’s ever anything on short supply these days it’s more care, compassion, and connection – and when these characteristics are dispensed in stressful, competitive, overpowering, and controlling environments, the response and outcome is quite refreshing and motivating to all.
Yet, the opposite has also holds true. Failing to temper our urge to lead through control, power, and competition within the church is simply not as effective as releasing our hearts to serve through care, compassion, and connection.
It’s interesting and inspiring how some of the best leadership lessons I have gained ultimately have not come from the multitude of books, seminars, corporate trainings, and years of leading in corporate structures, but in serving within the “imperfect” fellowship of a local church.
This shouldn’t be a surprise though for Proverbs 27:17 reminds us that as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. For me, allowing God to sharpen and shape my rough edges among His caring flock of fellow imperfect sheep has been a blessing I will forever be grateful for and won’t soon forget.
I pray that I might live out my life with an ever increasing “giving” heart, that is eager to care, show compassion, and to pursue connections with others, and that these motives will overpower any “getting” impulse that may rally for more control, power, and competition.
For in the end, as disciples, it’s in our giving, not our getting, where true leadership growth happens, and it’s in this struggle to do so where life changing impact begins.