Before the 1960s, the goal for leaders was to have a title, a position in some organization where you could marshal others for a noble cause or for business purposes. Leaders wore their titles proudly (even the title ‘pastor’) and enjoyed the influence that they had within a community. Then the information age rolled in around in the 1980s (I think we were all distracted by the great music in the 1970s and took some time off to sing along) and the new goal was to be the ‘expert’ – the one that had the inside information that no one else had, the answers to particular social, spiritual, or economic problems. Then the open source Web world emerged in the 1990s and flattened everything. Now, all of us had access to inside information and we threw research and reason out the window in exchange for public opinion as the new determinant of value. (Perhaps I say this a bit too strongly, but you can make a convincing argument here without having to look too far)
Posts Tagged ‘unpack’
Steve Argue recently commented on Twitter that he doesn’t wear headphones because – I don’t want to distract myself from facing ‘me’. Most of us who run would understand the situation he described. Good running pushes us through our barriers, past our limits, and flushes out toxins (both physically and emotionally). Good running strips away the pretty exterior, the excuses of inactivity, and fosters a prolonged period of combined physical strain and repetitive silence. I find when I run, it feels as if I’m overcoming depressed feelings, laziness, and anxiety, reminding body and mind that they are to be alive, vibrant, and active.
Steve’s comment also points to the ongoing internal conversations with self that often take place during extended exercise. These therapeutic reflections help us process problems, reflect on past conversations, and engage in creative thinking (if only we had a pen to write those down!). In fact, the old creative adage is that we have our most creative thoughts at one of the three “B’s” – bath, bed, and bike. We have some of our best ideas just before we go to sleep or while in the shower or while outside biking/running.
Every now and then I develop some exercises to help other leaders develop their self-awareness and I like to share them on here for you to use. A few months ago I offered one called Nurturing Your Sphere of Influence that helped me take intentional steps to nurture others (a key leadership skill I look for) around me. So many times we miss opportunities to help those with whom we work, lead, teach, meet, counsel, and even live to grow to their potential. And that exercise was helpful for others, too, based on the response I received.
Lately, perhaps it’s just the effects of the last weeks of a very cold winter, I’ve been listening to leaders who feel s.p.e.n.t. They are drained, easily frazzled, and therefore question their abilities even though they are highly gifted. I do think this is a seasonal reality for those of us (e.g. youth pastors, teachers) who work within a ‘school schedule’ where the end of the year is May or June in the northern hemisphere. But I also think there are some patterns that driven and gifted people enact that hurt them.
This past weekend, the server that hosts this website crashed – the hard drive ruined beyond repair. Fortunately we have a great hosting service and the good folks there were able to restore all of the data on a new server. The whole experience got me to thinking about the phrase “hard drive crash.” I particularly thought of those of us who are ‘driving hard’ in life, our ambition to make a difference (or make a living, provide for family, have renown) fuels the daily TO DO list and pushes us beyond the traditional boundaries of a 40-hour work week.
What if your hard drive crashes? I don’t mean the physical one your computer. What if the ambition waned and suddenly you were challenged to live a normal life right where you are? What if you didn’t have the desire to do more? Worse (perhaps), what if you were required to life a regular life? Work a 40 hour work and live in the same local community for the rest of your life? You’d wake up every day to the same folks at the local coffee shop. Have a hobby. Raise a great family. Live and love well. And do little beyond the walls of that community. You might even take up golf … without the golf cart of course (go green!).
If I asked you, “Why do you work?” what would be your answer?
What if you could take three steps and not have to work anymore- what would you do?
What if convinced you that, at the end of your career, life will have felt like three steps and you’ll be left with reflections on how you spend your 100,000 working hours of life? I’ve worked with leaders who have come to retirement age, or have had to step down from positions of influence. It’s a difficult and emotional step.
I think the number of sunny days we’ve had here in January can be counted on one hand. Easily. Now, I’m not terribly seasonal in spirit, but I do miss the sunshine. One local counselor joked that Chicago should just put Prozac in the water supply in February. People do get discouraged during this time of year.
This past month I spoke with two leaders who, despite their prominence and outgoing persona, each shared of private seasons of discouragement. These feelings hadn’t thwarted their work in any way, but the persistent feelings fostered even greater disappointment in themselves… for being discouragement.
I work with leaders from a wide range of experience levels. Some have reached the top in their field, worthy of a “lifetime achievement award” or its equivalent. But, I have witnessed a repeated phenomenon I first heard characterized on the Scott Van Pelt show on ESPN radio. Scott commented on the ongoing struggles of an NFL star quarterback to end his career well and added, “The dismount from the top is never graceful.”
Too often, those who are used to success, to being in charge, and being in the limelight have difficult finishing well. These leaders, and their board of directors, haven’t thought about next steps, maybe an exit plan, a succession strategy, or even had the more difficult discussion that their own preferences impede an organization’s ability to move forward.