Most of my week is spent coaching and teaching people who lead, coordinate, teach, or manage various groups. I consult with people ages 18 to 83 who hold positions in youth ministries, nonprofits, local public schools, educational administration, publishing, and even a few CEOs of global corporations.
All are trying to keep up with change, the new constant of our culture.
Though the fundamentals of youth development haven’t changed much and the principles of how to deal with people have been consistent, the rate of change in other areas has been staggering. Some of us have readily embraced the changes, seeing them as opportunities for innovation. Some of us have resisted for various reasons.
Sometimes our reactions to change are not the right ones.
Not every change is a good one. I have seen young leaders who enter the workplace full of confidence and ideas, but lacking the discerning and often helpful balance of experience, go out and make a series of changes without a clear set of reasons or awareness of the organizational DNA. Critical of anyone who opposes them, they eventually were dismissed or relegated to other positions and confused about what just happened.
What I’ve noticed is that all leaders generally have strong ego strength. We have an ability to get things done, to lead with confidence, and an intuitive sense of how to marshal others to our causes. We have ego – and this isn’t just something we get when we’re older. Young leaders can’t often recognize it, but they see it in older leaders who may be more hesitant to change.
“Ego in old age makes us hesitant to change. Ego in youth makes us change without hesitation.”
I’m working on a new adage for those of us who lead: Confident leaders listen better. The most crucial element to leadership in the midst of rapid change is to listen: To people, to trends. For the Christian leader, this would also include more reading, more prayer, and a closer connection to God’s Word.
Ego makes us miss the organizational clues that would be so very helpful in leading change, if change is needed at all. We think we know what we’re looking at or discussing when a healthy round of listening would’ve been the best thing. Young leaders often have underdeveloped listening skills too while older leaders think they’ve heard it all before.
Listening well require humility and a learning posture on the leader’s part.
That’s the problem for many leaders. And why change is difficult. Or too easy.