Sunday, June 26, 2016

Leading Well

A young military leader was in training with his crew.  Each person in the crew was given a single ration of food for each day.  Each person was to take a turn on patrol.  The young leader approached a crew member who was eating his ration of food for the day and instructed him that it was now his turn for patrol. "I can't right now," he said.  "I'm eating."  The young leader smacked the food ration out of his hands, knocking the precious food to the ground, ruined.  The crew member was furious, but now clearly understood the expectations of his responsibility to patrol and the consequences if he did not. 

True leadership consists of providing clarity on what is expected from the team and then holding everyone accountable to that standard.  This directly relates to both building and developing a team.  Author and speaker John Maxwell writes, “If you keep and reward uncommitted or unproductive people, eventually your team will be comprised of uncommitted and unproductive people.  What gets rewarded is what gets done.” 
In Matthew's account of Jesus' life, he tells of a time when Jesus entered the temple courts, furious that a place set aside to honor God was being turned into a place where greed had taken root.  Jesus flipped the tables of the money changers and drove out the "den of thieves."  Jesus was angry that boundaries had been crossed.  Everyone that witnessed this display was clear on what Jesus' expectations were, what was acceptable and what was not in this holy place.  Remarkably, He drove out the business owners building their kingdoms with profit shaded grey and made room for the least and lonely, welcoming those who could bring nothing of their own merit for God.

These principles are generally well received in the business world - be sure your team knows what to do and then make sure they do it.   This feels gritty and controllable.   Implemented appropriately, this is important, however it's void if offered without compassion and self-sacrifice.

When the crew member finished his patrol tired and hungry, he found a full ration of food waiting for him.  Later, he discovered it was provided by the young leader who had disciplined him earlier. The young leader ensured clear expectations and demanded accountability, while practicing compassion and self-sacrifice.  Trust sprouted roots binding this crew for the future.  

The Book of Matthew tells of another story where Jesus was predicting His death.  His dear friend, Peter, said that He would never let this happen.  Jesus responded, “Peter, get out of my way...You have no idea how God works.  ...Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self."  (The Message).  Jesus later told Peter that it was on him that the church would be built, giving him mission and identity.  Further, Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice of His life to lay a foundation for the full redemption story to take place. 

Mission clarity, individual and team expectations, accountability, compassion, and self-sacrifice are not mutually exclusive in leadership.  It's often perceived that leaders are either firm or compassionate, authoritative or collaborative, unwavering or empathetic.  For the best leaders, these aren't either/or, but rather both/and propositions.   

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