September 24, 2010


I had a conversation over the weekend with the leader of our college ministry who was my successor in the job.  We were having an afternoon church activity and during our lunch before it began, a couple of the college students chose to not sit where we were sitting, and rather ate their lunch away from us.

I thought nothing of it, but Jon commented how he would have been "one of the guys" before he had assumed the position, but now that he is in charge, he is viewed in a different way.  He was slightly lamenting the change, however I told him that this was significant.

He sighed when I told him I was going to tell him about George Washington.  I told him, and now I will tell you. Luckily the internet doesn't tell me if you are sighing. Or actually even reading this.

In 1776, David McCullough quotes Washington, writing:

"Be easy . . . but not too familiar," he advised his officers, "lest you subject yourself to a want of that respect, which is necessary to support a proper command."

In doing ministry, this is a lesson that I have only recently learned.  If you want to have the ability to work with and influence a group of individuals, you can't simply be one of them. You must stand apart from them so that they will have a reason to follow you.

It's that mental note that people will naturally create in their heads--yeah, this guy is in charge. He always (seems to) know what he is doing. What does he think about that? Why is he telling me this?

This designation takes effort to create.  McCullough writes, "It was a philosophy unfamiliar to most Yankees, who saw nothing inappropriate about a captain shaving one of this soldiers, or rough-hewn General Putnam standing in line for his rations along with everyone else.  Nor was it easy for Putnam and others of the older officers to change their ways." (p.43)

Don't get me wrong here. I am certainly not saying that within the church, one must deliberately construct walls in the form of clergy and laity.  I'm not clergy. Jon isn't either. We are simply leaders.

An individual must be willing to be separate from the crowd to be a leader.  Otherwise, they won't be.

1 comment:

Harold of Scaggsville said...

This is an issue I've always sort of struggled with along with the age-old question of like vs. respect. The pundits say there has to be a choice between the two and you can like someone you respect, but a leader should strive to be respected over being liked.

I have never consciously shunned being a part of teams I have led and I have always been told I am a natural leader (sometimes I don't know what that means either). While never doing this consciously, I am aware that it naturally happens. The relationship changes and people want to be associated with good leaders, but there is a natural border that segments the leader from the troops.

I try not to give it much merit or thought, but rather try to concentrate on being a good leader and being myself. The big faux pas is leaders that start to take themselves too seriously and stop being the person that everyone wanted as their leader.