One of the most comon mistakes of leaders at all levels of experience is the decision to “go it alone” on a particular issue or challenge.
We often expect this of younger leaders, simply based on the combination of enthusiasm and limited experience. We tend to be surprised when experienced leaders go it alone, because they know better, and yet, there seems to come a point where experience creates a vulnerability of independent confidence that is not helpful.
The reality is that we are designed to tackle life together, not alone. The human spirit is not designed to go solo. We were made in the image of God, and He sought fellowship with us from the very beginning.
Consider a few benefits of going together:
- Expanded Thinking: The best ideas are usually discovered and improved by working together.
- Good Energy: There is a healthy energy that is released when we tackle the issues of life together.
- Sharing the Burden: Every journey has seasons of burden. There is nothing more difficult in leadership than the sense of being alone. There is something awesome about knowing that a group of people share the load together.
- Minimize Pitfalls: Good counsel, while not a guarantee, is likely to reduce the number of mistakes along the way.
- Others to Share it With: At the end of the day, we are built for others to share in the wins and losses of any particular day.
I remember finding myself working on a collaborative project with a highly qualified team of people. At one point in our journey, as an experienced leader, I made the mistake of striking out on my own. My intent was to “move the ball down the field” at a faster pace. My mistake was quickly brought to my attention. I had to circle back to the team and ask for forgiveness and committ to working together to accommplish the necessary goals to overcome the challenges in front of us.
It is much better to go through life together.
As a leader, it is easy to get caught up in a cycle of being overly optimistic or of pessimistic discouragement. On the overly optimistic end of the spectrum, we are focused on unrealistic goals and expectations for our ministry. On the pessimistic end of the spectrum we become overly discouraged by the challenges we face as a minstry leader.
To put everyone in a better place, leaders would do well to cultivate honest reflection. Honest reflection provides a better opportunity to assess our reality and to chart a reasonable path forward.
Recently, I sat in a meeting of managers and listened to team members talk openly about the implementation of strategies for effectiveness as well as the continuing challenges and obstacles confronting the team. The leader of this meeting led the conversation with a level of personal vulnerability which set the tone for everyone else to participate.
By the close of the meeting, with conversation built around a tone of honest relection, the following things were evident:
- No Spin: The mangement team made no attempt to spin or justify current realities. This allowed the team to face into the challenges together.
- Trust: Each team member’s words could be trusted no matter how affirming or challenging the perspective.
- Uniting: Being able to think and speak honestly with each other cultivated a strong sense of being together in mission and a willingness to face opportunities and obstacles in a united way.
In conflict the tendency is to overstate one’s position and undervalue the perspectives of others. This does not produce good results.
Honest reflection helps us come to terms with “what we need to own” while maintaining awareness of how others may be relating to the conflict.
I have found that honest reflection takes both time and attentiveness to myself and those around me. Most importantly, it requries a responsiveness to the Holy Spirit that only comes through listening.
Recently, Bev and I were reflecting on a shared experience. As we talked, I marveled at how each of us held such a unique perspective of the same event. I learned so much from listening to how she had perceived the experience we had shared.
One of the challenges of leadership is to learn to draw value from the unique perspectives of our team members. We share common mission, vision and values. The way in which we experience the day to day responsibilities of the organization will be unique. All of these perspectives help us move forward in a healthy direction.
Not long ago, I was part of a team who were working to resolve unmet leadership expectations within their organization. As I sized the situation up, it seemed pretty straight forward to me. With confidence, I proceeded to outline my assessment and recommended action plan. A trusted team member then shared his unique perspective on the situation. It shed new light and provided important insight I hadn’t even considered.
By considering the differences of experience shared by team members, I was able to grow in my understanding of how to be helpful in the situation.
Each team member will have unique perspective on a shared experience.
Take time to understand how those around you are experiencing the situation.
Earlier this fall I spent a week in the Olympic Rain Forest in Washington State camping and hiking with my oldest son. While everyday was beautiful, the first couple of days were filled with thoughts about all of my responsibilities. On the 3rd day I began to take in the beauty of the rain forest. There were plants I was not familiar with. A red frog nestled in the leaves was simply spectacular. Sitting on a hill above a creek swollen from recent rains I could see and hear different birds, and the chatter of chipmunks.
Most of our life is spent thinking about how we make a difference in the world. On the 3rd day, I became immersed in the rain forest, appreciating the difference God’s creation was bringing to me. There was a deep sense of rest as the sights and sounds of the Rain Forest renewed me. The time my son and I shared was full of life and new perpsective.
The desire of STANDPOINT360 is to help ministries make time and space for life changing perspective.