Tag Archives: others

Their Way Might be Better

I don’t know about you, but I live with an underlying pressure that I am supposed to have all of the answers and always know the right decisions to make. It doesn’t matter if I am at home, work or on the football field. When I was starting out as a young pastor, I believed that asking for help or admitting that I was unsure of what to do next was a certain sign of being a terrible leader. I can remember at times making up answers just to appear right and hoping that I seemed confident enough to thwart any potential questions. 

While I cannot say that the pressure has lessened at all, I can say that I do a better job lately of looking to others for help and answers. Even when I am in a role as leader, or maybe especially so, I look to my team for thoughts, insights, plans and ideas. It is ludicrous to think for even one moment that I might hold all of the answers. Even something as simple as finding my car can become an exercise in my natural desire to know everything. When my wife and I were dating, we attended a UCLA football game. Part of the parking lot at the Rose Bowl is on a golf course and we spent almost two hours walking in circles around the course searching for the car. On several occasions she pointed a different direction, but I confidently ignored her suggestions. When the tow trucks arrived on scene, I started to become genuinely worried and we eventually found the car…in the exact direction that she had suggested quite some time before. 

Through the pain of many decisions, I have come to this conclusion regarding the people in my life: their way might be better! Now, if only I always remembered this in the moment. The majority of my disagreements with my wife happen when I forgot this truth. Errors at work happen largely because I ignore this basic premise. So, let me share three problems with ignoring the premise and three benefits from heeding it.

Ignoring this premise leads to:

** a bottleneck of ideas and action. A leader who feels that he or she must know everything compels all activity to flow through themselves which causes a shut down of progress. 

** a sense of arrogance and entitlement on the part of the leader. What else could somebody feel if they know everything about everything?

** a level of stress and pressure that no person is designed to handle. The leader who knows everything must work very hard to maintain that illusion and increases stress everytime he or she must provide information that does not exist.

On the contrary, learning that their way might be better leads to:

** an empowerment of team members and a true sense of personal value which will naturally lead to greater collaboration and success for the team as a whole.

** an assortment of ideas, perspectives and actions to choose from that will inspire both creativity and innovation.

** a true releasing of others in their areas of strength…which should be an underlying value of all healthy leaders

This is not an easy task for me, nor do I believe that it is easy for you. It is humbling and challenging to admit that we might not have all of the answers. However, leadership is less about being right and more about encouraging and supporting others to accomplish their dreams. I can honestly say that one of my greatest joys happens when people have an “a-ha” moment…and this is impossible if I have to know all of the answers. 

~ Mike


It’s Not About Me

Leaders fall into one of two basic categories: self-serving micromanagers who see people as tools for their own advancement, or servant leaders who take the time to set up others for success. While the first type might get bigger headlines at times, the second version is a sustainable leader who helps others get ahead. Not only would I prefer to follow a servant leader, but I desire to be one as well.

balloon glow

Most likely the greatest leader ever to walk the earth, Jesus Christ, provided a model of leadership based upon serving others rather than self. In John 13, the story of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples is shared. This job would typically have been reserved for the servants of the home, yet Jesus willingly set aside His outer garments, wrapped Himself in a towel, and washed the dirty and grimy feet of His shellshocked disciples. Then, in verse 15, He lands the teaching point – “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

I wish I could say that I have finally figured this out in my many years of ministry and leadership. However, that would not be true. Instead, this is something that I wrestle with consistently. My nature likes to be loud and in charge and I welcome the spotlight. I am not naturally able to say that it’s not about me, yet that is precisely the model that I desire to follow. So, how do I work on this each day?

First, I work to consider how I want to be treated and looked upon. Do I want to be a tool for somebody else’s advancement or a fellow collaborator on grand project? I would definitely take door #2 which means this is how I must look at others. How can I include them in a task or project? What do they have to share with the team that will bring success? How can I ensure they receive more praise for a successful project than I do?

Second, I must realize that I actually do not know everything, nor am I able to do everything. This point comes much easier to me as I spend a great deal of time at work knee deep in projects that are far beyond my skill set. This compels me to look to others for help, for knowledge, for some compassion. Humility is a characteristic that I can either embrace on my own or have it given to me. I have far too many stories where I avoided humility only for it to catch up to me in a highly humiliating manner. I would much rather admit my weaknesses and look to those who are further down the road with skills, education and experience.

Finally, I have realized after a lifetime in ministry leadership that rare is the leader who is able to stay in one place for their entire career. A healthy leader plans for a future without them. How do I set up my department and my projects to run smoothly should I not be there? I can only do this if I truly believe that it’s not about me. I want to work hard and own projects today while passing them off to others for a brighter tomorrow. This requires that I equip and release other leaders, not to mention trust them, so that they are ready to fill my shoes when the time comes.

When I am able to live this way, it drastically reduces my stress and allows me to celebrate the accomplishments of others. When leadership revolves around me, jealousy and envy rule the day. When I am a servant leader, I can fade to the background and watch team members bask in the glow of well-earned success. I must admit that while it is not always easy to get there, I would rather hold the balloon than be the balloon.

~ Mike