Friday, January 19, 2007

Concerning Leadership...

After going through some of the initial coursework on the new Leadership Course, my mind has been thinking about the various aspects of leadership that we deal with in this life. Every one of us has been under the leadership of someone; most notably God, our parents, a boss at work, teachers, etc. Many of us have had the opportunity to lead in some way, whether by being a manager at some company, or just taking a lead role on some class project... Maybe even being a parent or an older sibling. In the Leadership Course, we're learning the proper way to becoming a leader. But in the course of our life, we come into contact with managers, bosses, and other types of leadership that can anger 0r frustrate us. I've read Paul's admonition in Ephesians 5 and 6 about the parent/child and master/servant relationships and how they apply to us. Simply put, leaders, don't abuse your power because God is your master, and servants, don't slack or give your boss less than you would Christ. Don't bicker and complain. But how do we apply that in everyday situations?

Have you ever worked for someone who's too proud of their position and gives you a lot of grief for it? Are they always reminding you of their role and power? I've almost found it laughable in some situations. I worked at Pizza Hut for 5 years in high school and a little over the summers in college. I decided during my 3rd year of college to get a job at the local Pizza Hut in my college (po-dunk) town. You should have seen the tiny kingdoms these folks set up for themselves. "I'm the waitress in charge of the salad bar." "I'm the lead assistant manager here." "Mike, you need to do your job the way I do it." Mind you, I've been doing this type of work as long or longer than many of them. But I found that by laughing about that type of behavior to myself, humbly smiling and saying, "Oh, okay, I'll be sure to do that," I tried not to start any fires. I only stayed at that job for 4-5 weeks because of class work overload, but by week 2, they were asking me for help, directions, etc. Mind you, I wasn't perceived to be in a leadership role there, I just knew what to do and people saw that. I was willing to help, or be a listening ear or whatever, and people appreciated that. They didn't feel underneath me. In fact, they befriended me as an equal, which was all I really wanted.

I'm trying not to brag here, but it was just one example that I was reminded of. Truthfully, I didn't know anybody there when I started, and my introverted side comes out when I'm uncomfortable, which makes me become quiet and courteous, even if it's a tad faked at times. :) What's stupid is when I got around people I felt comfortable around, THAT'S when I started complaining about others in the store, or talked about how I know more than others. Stupid, I know... So I need to learn to continue to be courteous and humble to everyone at all times, whether in a role of leadership or servitude. It's definitely shown me that work can be a lot smoother if we all get along.

One aspect of leadership that Mr. Millich discussed was being able to continually analyze ourselves. I think it would do us a great service to have a gigantic mirror held up to us so we can see how we really look and sound to others. Perhaps that's the beginning of God's present judgment on us and His future judgment on the rest of the world. "Here's what you're really like, Mike." Yikes! But it's only when we see what's wrong that we can do something about it. I occasionally pray for people who are completely oblivious to their abrasive personality and annoying or sinful habits, as well as my own. And I have many! When it comes to overcoming sin and our problems, it really comes down to whether we're thinking about ourselves or others. I think back to Isaiah 59:2 where it says, "But your iniquities [SELFISHNESS] have come between you and your God, and your sins [SELFISHNESS] have hidden His face from you, from hearing." We're often too busy doing our own thing to notice that we're not living God's way of service, kindness, gentleness, timeliness, patience and love. And once you've sampled the fruits of the Spirit, selfishness doesn't taste so good.

Along those lines, Mr. Ames has a great sermon out there on the church web site titled "God's Greatest Creation" that discusses how to build better character. In it, he talks about how he'll go over to someone's house and they'll be eating dinner. He might want some butter for his bread and before he can ask for it, the hostess is already offering it to him. He stated that's an example of actively looking for how we can serve others. It's a complete reversal from thinking about our own needs or priorities or pride. When you really think on that small example for a bit, you can really see thousands of instances where we can apply that principle: Do I clean up after myself, especially in other people's homes? Am I being courteous on the road or at the grocery store or even to my spouse or parents? Do I send cards to the sick? Do I pray for other people's sinful nature so they stop hurting themselves (as opposed to doing it so they'll quit hurting me) and live God's perfect way of life? That last one, isn't that the attitude behind the Work of God, making people's lives better?? Even taking the time to put yourself in someone else's shoes is serving someone because you may not like what they're doing to you, but you can at least sympathize with them. You're not retaliating because you've been there, done that. I think that's similar to one of the many reasons Christ emptied Himself to become human was to see what it was like on our level. Hebrews 4:15 - "For we do not have a high priest that cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin."

So anyway, these are a few things that I've learned in my life about some of the everyday issues with leaders and followers. Leader's and followers must ask themselves, are we trying to serve ourselves or others? We might see a lot of pride, ego or even jealousy with worldly leaders and followers, but unfortunately those aspects are a part of this world's nature that we must destroy in our own character. And these are the kinds of things that the Leadership Course is trying to address. Then we might learn what being a (servant) leader really means so we can do a better job. Or so we can sympathize with the difficult jobs leaders have. What kinds of things have you been learning from the Leadership Course?

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