I was talking with a friend today about his leadership style. Rather, he was revealing to me that his leadership style lacks a few key components that he has recently become more aware of. He said, “Someone asked me recently, ‘why do you have to do everything yourself, instead of letting other people take the lead sometimes?’ ” I found this rather shocking to hear from this person because I’ve always perceived his leadership as balanced with good delegation, accompaniment and collaboration with others. But his perspective, as a leader, is that he has control issues.
So what’s the trick to good leadership that balances healthy strong leading by example and healthy delegation that empowers others? Some food for thought:
Empowering others to lead out of their skill set is both freeing and beneficial – I learned a while ago, by trial and error, that people want to do what people want to do. Sounds too simple to be true, but in a culture of “opt in/opt out” technology, more and more people are choosing to get involved with the things that interest them and neglecting the things that are cumbersome or to laborious without reward. To a degree, we need to learn to pay attention to peoples’ interests and learn to empower some to take a risk and lead in an area of interest.
In youth ministry, this looks a little something like this conversation I had with a kid, “Hey Reid, this youth room looks a little… um, sorry, but it looks dated and old. Can you like, paint it or something?” My response was to ask what that student enjoyed, or what they would like to see in the room to make them feel more excited about coming to youth group weekly. They mentioned an interest in photography, so I empowered them to take pictures for the youth group and we could post them in the room, or find some other kids to help them spruce up the room a little. With that kid’s leadership, we ended up doing a cost effect youth room overhaul and it turned out great, other kids liked it, and I gave all the credit to that kid for her initiation on the project.
There’s a fine balance between delegating, empowering and control – “… but I have control issues!!”
I think we all have control issues. This comes right from the first breath we take and continues through childhood, adolescence and even marriage and vocation. It’s important to become aware of our ‘control issues’ and in order to lead well, we let that awareness build into tactics of learning to let go of the outcome on a project, empowering others and collaboration. One of the mantras I hear from my own soul daily, and from some colleagues in ministry is, “I’m the only one who knows how to do things around here, and if I don’t do it, it’s not going to come out right.”
I wonder if Jesus thought these things about the disciples. What a bunch of misfits; Peter – loudmouth, James & John – anger issues and intolerant, Judas – thief, double-crosser & betrayer, Matthew – old miser, Mark – punk little kid… Why didn’t Jesus have control issues with these guys? I’m amazed at Jesus’ humility he showed to them time and time again, and he remained so patient. Even in the encounter with the boy with an evil spirit (Mark 9:14-32), the 12 can’t get rid of the evil spirit, so the father brings the boy to Jesus and says, “I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they couldn’t.” Jesus ministers to the man and his boy, “saw that a crowd was running to the scene” (v.25), continues to minister, then takes the 12 inside. They asked Jesus why they couldn’t cast out the demon, and Jesus kindly instructs them about prayer. He continues to teach them (v.30-31), but doesn’t humiliate them or belittle them. He empowers them through an example of leading, and then later would give them another time to try on their own. I love it.
What if they screw it up? –
This is our most common fear in lack of delegation. We don’t want to “look bad” in front of others as we let someone learn, do we? We are so concerned about how we look to “the crowd” that we rarely let others lead. What I’ve learned from others before me is that “screwing up” is part of learning. Thank God for the men and women in my life who have let me take a leadership role, messed the whole thing up, and humbly taken me by the hand and asked me what I might have learned by it. Life and leadership is more than trying to “look good” in front of others. In the end, people are going to remember your heart, your humility and your confidence as a leader, maybe more than any words you ever spoke, or ways you made sure no one ever screwed up around you. Let’s learn together.