Leadership Confessions Part 4 (The Most Painful Part of Leadership)
About a year ago, I did a 3-part series of blog posts called “Leadership Confessions”. These were honest posts regarding some of my own insights and struggles in leadership. Well, I’d like to pick up the series once and share some more thoughts on leadership. For those who may have missed my previous posts, here are the links to the first three:
Here’s Part 4 – “The Most Painful Part of Leadership”
Leading an organization, business, or network is no small endeavor. Beyond the organizational infrastructure and administration needed to effectively develop a group, there exists actual individuals who all have their own opinions, vision, and desires for what your group ought to be like. This complex web of relationships creates an impossible environment for any one leader to meet all of the “needs” of the people he/she is leading. As a result, it’s inevitable that some people will leave. Some will leave on good terms and others, not so good. 🙂
One of my roles as a leader is that of being a pastor for a local faith community. I love my role as a spiritual leader. I’m very mindful of the responsibility and influence I have in shaping the world view and practice of those who choose to be a part of our community. It’s a great honor to be in this role. I don’t take it lightly.
Over the past 2 decades of leadership in ministry, I have seen people come and go in the various ministries that I have been a part of. Positive transitions are always the best. I love supporting people through their various stages in life. Playing even a small role in a unique season of a person’s life gives me great pleasure. Nevertheless, there is one kind of leaving that continues to give me great pain.
So, here’s my confession:
For me, the most painful part of leadership is when those I have invested my life in suddenly disconnect without any conversation. One day…they’re just no longer around. Some don’t even return emails or phone calls.
This is extremely painful. It’s one thing to have casual people leave your organization, but it’s something totally different when people that you have invested much in decide to leave without telling you.
Here’s the process of thought for me whenever this occurs:
- I enter a season of mourning and doubt. I mourn the relational loss of someone I considered a friend. I then begin to doubt whether or not I was of value to them. I ask questions like “Could I have done something different?” “Was it something I did or not do?” “Was our friendship real to begin with or was I more like a product that they had chosen for a season?”
- I usually seek the encouragement of my wife and/or a good friend. Quite honestly, I need to be reminded that their decision to leave probably had very little to do with me. Nevertheless, it still hurts.
- I grow in my distrust of people. I start to build a wall of resistance towards relationships. Then after a little while, I usually clear my head and try hard not to project this experience on others. I open myself up to others once again. I always believe that it is better to engage people even at the risk of being hurt than it is to not engage at all.
- I think about the grace that I’ve been given by God and others. I tell myself that my role is that of a servant-leader. A true servant does not expect anything in return. Any return made is taken with great gratitude. I know that I can’t change hearts nor expect people to commit to me at any level. I do my best to give the person(s) the benefit of the doubt. I choose to be optimistic with others, even those who have caused pain (whether intended or not).
- I then celebrate what I was able to do for that person(s). Even though the relationship was shorter than expected, it is often still a good time of friendship and partnership. I never want to discard the joys of the past because of the present.
- Finally, I make sure I recommit my life towards being a good leader and friend. I’m reminded of the kind of friendship that Jesus referred to. He said that we ought to love our friends in the way he loved us (i.e., sacrificially and unconditionally).
What has been your experience and how do you work through your pain (if any) in this area?
[Note: The experiences mentioned above are a collective thought towards what I experienced over the past 15+ years of ministry at a local church. It does not reflect a particular time frame of reference so please don’t read into it if you have been a part of recent ministry with me. 🙂 I purposely waited to write about this much after the experience.]