I write books. Not actually that any of them make it to paper, develop into chapters, or find publication. Maybe someday. For now, I write books in my head. And the one I've been thinking of for the last few days really needs to be written. Or greater still, the message of Leadershipwreck needs to be heeded by all. Let me explain.
Not long ago, I stood with a school leader on the eve of the final days of school before the kids started summer vacation. I appreciated this leader, and had seen them work hard all year to make their school a productive, pleasant environment for students, teachers, and administrators. They were highly regarded by the parents I had conversed with over the course of the year, and they were receiving appreciation from many that night for a job well done. Although I myself was a parent, I chose a different approach in my private comments to this leader at a chosen moment. I approached this person, and began with this statement, "Leadership is hard." I went on to let them know that I understood the difficulties they faced in leadership, and yet wanted to remind them that what they did was worth it no matter how hard these difficulties might be. I don't really know if this leader heard all that I said, because once I made my first statement to them, this person began to weep. Although it may have made for an awkward moment for this leader, their response did not surprise me in the least. In my life I have found that I have had the most compassion for two groups of people; those on the bottom, the cast-offs of society that our culture (and unfortunately too often the church) tends to have no use for, and the leadership of a culture that at the same time it places its leaders on pedastals for all to see, undermine the foundation of that same pedastal, such that he who is a in the glory of leadership one day, is the goat the next. I have termed this problem, "Leadershipwreck" and I see it characterized by a few things I will share here.
1. Leadershipwreck operates in idiot hopes and idiot despairs - Malcolm Muggeridge coined these two terms, and in the arena of leadership, it applies to our need for a leader who will answer all of our problems, who when hired is the savior of the organization, whether CEO, Principal, Police chief, or pastor. We operate in the idiot hope that one person has it all and can do it all. The only thing more heartbreaking than this lie is the reality the organization will face in the future in idiot despair. Now that the leaders has not all, and cannot do it all, it becomes time for idiot despair. The critics come out of the woodwork, declaring that the Emporer has no clothes, not realizing that they were the ones who dressed that leader in this garb in the first place. Despair sets in, and all eyes set upon the leader, who becomes the sacrificial lamb of the corporation.
2. Leadershipwreck operates in the "doing" and not the "being" - In today's culture, we are very quick to have a "what have you done for us lately" approach to leadership. The leader that is heralded operates in a "doing" mentality because that is where they gather the most accolades from those they lead. Accomplishment has trumped character as the most important trait of a leader in our world, and unfortunately often in the church as well. If the leader delivers success to the organization, they are cheered; if the leader works to develop in character, well, do it on your own time. The long-term consequences of this characteristic of leadershipwreck in the church are openly evident; the pastoral attrition rate is 50%; shipwrecked lives, families and churches coming as a result of leaders moral failures, the latest of which made the front page of USA Today.
3. Leadershipwreck has generational consequences - Everytime we operate in leadershipwreck, we teach the generation behind us something untrue; that leadership is not worth it. I listened recently to two teachers discussing the problems in today's classroom, first discussing the students role in the problem, then the parents role. I found myself asking on the inside; "Whose fault is it?" Whose fault is it when the classroom becomes uncontrollable? Whose fault is it when the teacher loses interest? Whose fault is it when the parent no longer cares? The answer is found in the shortest essay ever written. G.K. Chesterton once wrote an essay for an English newspaper's contest that asked writers to answer the question, "What's wrong with the world?" He replied in the essay, "To your question, 'What is wrong with the world?' I give my answer: I am." When so many can't get their own act together, how can any lead those who live today, and those who come behind us to a brighter day?
Is there any answer to "Leadershipwreck"? Only one. And believe it or not, it is hidden in the words of G.K. Chesterton's essay, whether he ever meant for it to be or not. "I Am." Look it up. Someone uses these two words in the Bible to describe himself. When we start following the "I Am", rather than expecting a human being to be the "I Am" for us, we will begin to understand what leadership really is, one of many gifts in the body of Christ, not the only one. We will look to the Holy Spirit to be "the man" rather than a human being. We'll realize that Jesus already went down with the ship for each one of us, and that leadership is not a solo voyage, but rather takes a crew, pulling together in the direction the wind of the Holy Spirit is blowing. God save us from "Leadershipwreck" Just Thinking
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