I've learned a ton about leadership this year. It's been a very successful year in many respects, but I've definitely had my share of failures. The year has taught me vital lessons about what it means to lead. Ultimately I've found that leadership is very hard work, and is not for the faint of heart.
This year I've had to fire an employee, confront several people who suffer from various mental disorders and deal with my own personal demons along the way.
Leadership lesson #1: It's a mixed bag. There are so many wonderful people whom I have the pleasure of knowing as a result of my priviledged position as a pastor. There are also many relationships that are challenging, and some that are downright unpleasant. Leadership is a door with hinges that swing in two directions toward two separate rooms. One room is warm and wondrous. The other is cold and cruel. Both rooms, however, lie under the same leadership roof.
Another aspect of leadership that I've encountered is the principle of overactivity.
Leadership lesson #2: People will gladly bite off more than they can chew. Most folks are terrible at knowing their limits. Unfortunately our current leadership culture takes advantage of people's good sense, and we make them feel guilty if they're not doing enough, and guilty if they're doing too much. As a result we have a huge throng of people who have either dropped the leadership ball altogether or are pants-on-fire busy with various projects they have no business getting involved with. There is no middle ground these days, but the majority of people I know have a very hard time limiting themselves to the core aspects of their effectiveness.
My final leadership lesson is one that I've always known, but have never truly experienced until this year.
Leadership lesson #3: Be transparent about your own struggles. Effective leadership is not ivory tower, untouchable leadership that never honestly expresses the true nature. Real leadership is broken about personal and corporate struggles. It is these struggles that make leaders approachable and tolerable, while building loyalty from those who follow.
My greatest leadership successes this year have come as a result of quite possibly the biggest shortcoming I've ever experienced. Shortly after my diagnosis of General Anxiety Disorder, I wrote an article for our church magazine entitled "Too Sick to Pray." In it I detailed how this struggle had taken hold of my life in a very serious way, and how shocking it was to experience my own limitations. That honesty has resutled in greater impact on others, and deeper loyalty from others. People have responded to this struggle with open arms, and they've taken me more - not less - seriously because of my honesty.
Leadership is an industry these days. Everywhere I look there is a new leadership best seller. It is often over-analyzed, and definitely over financed, but it feeds people's desire to feel important. Hopefully these few lessons I've learned will demonstrate that leadership isn't always about getting ahead. Sometimes it's about getting hurt, humbled and haggard. One thing's for sure: you'll learn a lot more about leadership from leading than from reading a book about leading.