Friday, March 27, 2009

Leadership Pain

I'm closing this week's topic with a reminder that leadership can be a painful exercise.

It was painful to realize that sometimes a leader can be too kind. Many years ago, one of our staff members made a huge mistake. I should have exposed the mistake to our core leaders...but I didn't. I should have removed him when he refused to completely follow through with his assigned discipline...but I didn't. I should have recognized the coming destruction when he started attempting to push us in a direction I knew wasn't right...but I didn't. I should have strongly warned those close to him that they were making a mistake to follow him out to start his own church...but I didn't.

After the damage was done, my painful feelings of failure were brought into focus by a frustrated friend. He jabbed his finger at me and said, "Sam, you are wise, but wisdom does not a leader make!" Many in the room with him that night came to my defense. He came back a few days later and apologized.

It still hurt.

Fast forward a few years and a few thousand leadership decisions later...

I still love working with people. I am full of joy in my role as a leader. I am also different because of that pain...

If the mistake is big, I expose it and seek input. If someone is unwilling to submit to those helping them restore, I will remove them. I am always cautious about the difference between those who bring fresh ideas to the table and those who try to bend the rest of us to their agenda -- the former is highly welcomed while the latter is unacceptable. Finally, if I see someone running blindly toward a cliff, I warn them, tell them I love them no matter what they do and invite them back should they choose to leave anyway. (Those who return are some of the most loyal people I know.)

Those are heavy lessons for a Friday, but they leave me grateful for the pain.

What pain are you grateful for?


Liz said...

Interestingly, I am part of a small weekly group at church and our current topic is "Why does God let bad things happen?" We are having some really great, heartfelt conversations each Weds night. And your question, "What pain are you grateful for," brought me to this past week's conversation.

While it is hard to imagine... I am "grateful" for all of the suffering I've endured. I've lived through some truly horrible things. And while I have had to work to resolve my rage, my guilt, my shame... I can't say that I would go back and erase any of it. Because it made me who I am right now. Because of the struggles of my childhood, I work hard to ensure my children won't know hunger or fear losing their home. Because of my victory in surviving sexual abuse, I am extremely cautious about the safety of my children and who provides them care. Because I have suffered a miscarriage, I embrace my children and fully recognize their value in my life.

Could I know all those things without suffering and pain? Perhaps. But not at the same level that I know them because of what I've lived through.

I thank God for the problems put in my path. Because I learn invaluable lessons when He brings me through them. Because I am stronger after he holds my hand or carries me. And, in some ways, I am honored that he sees me as storng enough in my faith, strong enough in my character to take these struggles, live through them, and make life better somewhere because of them.

Sam said...

Thank you, Liz. You have shared a power story of overcoming. It helps me understand the depth I have seen in your writing.

Sandra said...

Leadership is like parenting -- you can't always be liked or their friend. What I've observed is that a good leader has to develop a tough skin and be willing to make the tough, many times unpopular, decision that no one else wants to make. Not easy, but I suspect you are one of the good ones.

C. Beth said...

I'm grateful for experiencing the pain of labor and childbirth. It was better than being numbed.