The ‘L’ Word

I hesitate to write about the ‘L’ word, leadership.  First, I don’t claim to be an expert on it, not even close.  I am sure this post will be simply brushed off by many, and even seen as a post written to excuse someone for not having a large following.  Second, like the word ‘missional’ today, 10 years ago the word ‘leadership’ was the buzz word, and we used it to convince everyone that we were leaders and used it to hide our need to control or micro-manage behind it.  In fact, just google images on leadership, and your pictorial findings (for the most part) will be one person leading everyone else in his direction.  For a long time, leadership has always been thought of as very singularly driven and linear. So, for many, the concept of leadership, has been the “L” word we all stay away from.  There is one problem with that-everything is moved by leadership at some level…

Over the last two years, I have really wrestled with the concept of leadership in my life.  As I feel there are a few arenas that I have been called to lead in.  I have grown pretty insecure in the area of leadership, I think because of the cultural focus that is placed on one type of leadership, specifically in my world – the church world.  So, in this post, I am simply going to attempt to write what I have discovered (which may be old news for some of you), then I hope to follow this post up with some posts on distinctions, pros, and cons to the different types of leadership.  Rather than trying to give strange words to define these types of leaders, I am going to use names of leaders that seem to exemplify the different types of leaders in our world and or history.  I am not claiming that these are the only three, or that these people perfectly exemplify each leadership category, but they come pretty close.  The names of the leaders are: Leonidas/Joan of Arc, General Patton/Oprah, and Father Damian/Mother Teresa.

I have seen two major issues, that seem to be roadblocks to allowing these leaders to function as they are at a soul level:

  1. The glorification of one type of leader as the ‘real’ leader.  In the west, we measures everything by size, the ability to quantify, tangibility, and popularity.  When we limit ‘real’ leadership to these measurables, the other two forms of leadership are marginalized and our organizations and people are cheated, but that’s for another post.
  2. Our unwillingness to admit who we are not – I actually asked a leader at one point, which of the three are you, and they said, “really, I’m all three of them“, this reveals several things about those of us who feel this way, but that’s for another post.

But before we get into the above, lets over simplify and define these three types of leadership

  • Leonidas/Joan of Arc – These types of leaders are usually first out, they aren’t really comfortable if their not in the middle of controversy or at least pushing the envelope. They usually know things before they know the why or how.  They love to lead from the front line, in other words, when their people are being attacked, they will probably be one of the first to die.  They don’t do command stations very well, and they usually lead a smaller group of people, as they are very focused and not very spread out.  They are usually less graceful.  They usually love knowledge and movement, and don’t give as much credence to experience.  They can be seen as very offensive and unwelcoming, and therefore unpopular.  They are ready to rebel and really don’t care what others think of them, if they feel they are functioning in the truth – this is a very simplified version. These people are decent at making leaders, but probably horrible at recruiting them. I’m not saying these things are good or bad, but that they just are.
  • General Patton/Oprah – These people are popular.  They live in the command center, as their army is so large and so spread out.  They are networkers. They do very well at taking the message of Leonidas and Joan and make it popular and acceptable, while putting legs to it. Where Leonidas and Joan know the ‘what’ before the why or how, the Generals and Oprah’s can put feet to the concept. Their downfall, is they have a really hard time with decentralization and control.  These people usually will hire to get people to finish their vision as opposed to admitting and therefore hiring/recruiting at what they can’t do.  They love results and are more detailed.  When they feel a bit threatened they are quick to bring up past accomplishments and control.  They are usually willing (unknowingly or knowingly) to shade the truth, embellish, or take too much liberty on certain issues.  These people are decent at recruiting and finding leaders, but probably not as good at developing leaders as their vision is to busy expanding. Where Joan or Leonidas does not care enough about what people think, Genaral’s and Oprah’s may care too much.  Again, I’m not saying these things are good or bad, but that they just are.
  • Father Damian/Mother Teresa – These leaders love people, to the point they are defined by it, they see the needs of others and usually focus on things like mercy, feelings and emotions.  For them truth will often take a backseat to one’s emotional status.  These leaders are not usually on the front-lines close to death or in the command station delegating, but rather among those who are dying or are in need of care and comfort. They usually care too much about what people think of them.  Again, I’m not saying these things are good or bad, but that they just are.

You will find, that I believe leadership is best seen in the idea of a mosaic.  In this series of posts, you will see very little focus on General Patton. As he id the one that already gets the focus at the expense of the others.  They are commonly shown to be the most necessary and the ‘real’ leader.  So, I will spend very little time on them, except I will probably talk about the negative results at our cultures and churches glorification of them at the expense of the other two.  So, I need you to know this.  I do NOT think we need to do to them, what has been done to the other two forms of leaders, I just think we need to bring them back to their rightful place in the rhythm of leadership, or rather allow the other forms to rise back to their perspective role in leadership.  I am a huge proponent of triperspectival leadership.  I do find that those most threatened by this leadership are the General’s as they feel in some way it limits their vision and ability to control it.  But I think if one thing history and the Bible shows us, it’s when we have a mutual submission from all three leadership forms, making room for each leader to rise to the position of first among equals in their perspective strengths, you will see communities and organizations rise to the fullness of who or what they could be.

Here are a few books, I think all leaders should read.  Not so much to ‘teach’ them leadership, but to cause them to think more deeply about leadership that has not been formed by a western-CEO culture:

The point of this series is going to be this: Be confident in the leader you are…do not bow to the idea, that if you want to really lead, you have to become who you are not.  I am proposing that if we really want to lead and lead well, realize who you are NOT, surround yourself with those who are NOT you and ARE better than you in those areas, submit to them, and lead together, and you will see a work of art that you have never experienced before…

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2 thoughts on “The ‘L’ Word

  1. Pingback: Journey of a Wander, pt. 2 « Emmaus Life

  2. Pingback: …visions of a new kind of church… « Emmaus Life

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