Monday, November 17, 2014

The Look In Their Eyes

It felt both normal and strange when I realized that I could usually tell whether a Marine I just met was in a command position. I mention from time to time what a privilege it is that I have pastored many military members…mostly Marines…for a long time. After a couple of decades of this, I became aware that I could almost guess the level of authority they carry. It’s the look in their eyes.

That look, at least in higher ranking military members, is born of years in an authority system that knows few parallels. It’s the look of people who have learned to be in authority by being under authority. In fact, they never seem to lose their sense of being under someone else’s authority, no might how high their rank.

Being a person with authority was a characteristic ascribed to Jesus in Matthew 7. In fact, we will talk about it this coming weekend at our church. My thoughts naturally turn there, so I want to share with you some signs of false authority:

Yelling orders. While things like a large crowd and no sound system can force a person to raise their voice to be heard, that’s not what I’m talking about here. Do you ever issue a command, then start yelling to “make sure" it’s followed? This typically shows how little real authority you have.

Refusing to listen. This is a sign of insecurity, rather than security. Do you have to have the right answer and/or the final answer for everything pertaining to your work?

Delegating responsibility without authority to complete the task. Do you force every person under your leadership to endure your micromanagement? Some people need intense management until they fully understand their role. However, a leader who finds it necessary to micromanage everyone in the organization is showing a lack of true authority.

Taking credit without taking responsibility. Good leaders do just the opposite. They spread the credit around and take on themselves the responsibility when things come apart.

If those are some signs of false authority, what does real authority look like?

Caring for the people in the organization. Your people are ALWAYS your number one asset. It’s trite, but “they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care."

Confidently leading the way. You can be confident about your overall direction, even as you listen to your people on the best way to get there.

Helping people discover their strengths. Many people have received an education, only to discover that they hate their work. This is often because they don’t know their own strengths. You can help them discover those strengths and grow in them, using them to help the entire organization.

Encouraging risk. No organization can remain the same. If it isn’t growing, it will ultimately decline. In addition, growth means change. What risks can your team take? What have you learned from previous failures?

Passing the baton. What people in our organization are ready to go to the next level? Who is ready to take on more responsibility? One of your greatest honors is releasing people to be the person God designed them to be. The short-term loss you feel on your team will become long-term gains for everyone.

The look in their eyes tells me if someone has assumed command. It’s a look that communicates responsibility for the people in their unit and for their assigned tasks. That look tells me that they pay a price to move their unit forward and they carry that load 24/7/365. Others may go off the clock after the day is over and at the end of the week, but not commanders. No matter where they are, the phone can ring and they pick up their load and go to work. It’s not for the faint of heart or the lazy of character.

Jesus understood authority better than anyone. What is amazing is how easy His authority was for those around Him to recognize. We will talk about it this weekend at Stone Ridge Church. I hope you can join us. If not, catch the podcast!

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