Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Chapter 8: Taking responsibility

Read chapter 8 before reading this blog post.

"… not only about your duties and obligations… it's about taking full charge of your impact on other people…"

This chapter seems to assert that the impact our leadership has on those around us is important enough to qualify as an "added benefit." For us though, this concept is much closer to "mission critical." Our leadership is all about impacting other people. We may therefore need to give Graham's words a little more weight than he gives them himself.

On page 79, for example, he uses a story to illustrate how a leader might not ever see much of the impact their leadership has on the rest of someone's life. This "you never know" possibility is a kind of side-benefit for Graham's purposes, but it's central to the vision for us: "developing Christian leadership and character in young musicians."

You may not see some of the results of taking responsibility for your leadership, but we fully expect God to use your leadership in the CTI-specific experience to impact areas of our team member's lives that won't even show up on the radar this summer. Bottom line: don't underestimate the importance of such opportunities when they don't seem relevant to the moment. Investing in people will always be relevant to our mission, even if doing so doesn't seem to contribute towards the success of any immediate objective.

Add your own comments to this point as reflection question #1


"Leadership is a contract, and you're responsible for honoring your end of it."

If we're all really honest, I think we'd admit that this isn't the first place our mind goes when we think about leadership. There's always a temptation to let that entitlement bug creep in and convince us that leadership is, first and foremost, a status that we've earned by putting in our time and good behavior, or a privilege and authority that we deserve because of our depth of experience in a particular area.

It's a sober reminder to me to read sentences like "People expect you to lead, and in return, give you the authority to do so." Leadership is, at least in part, something that is given to us by those we lead. We should therefore take particular note of our obligations in this transaction.

Graham lists them as:

  1. The safety and well-being of participants;
  2. Helping the group reach its goals;
  3. Helping create a quality experience;
  4. Meeting certain legal requirements.

We don't need to spend any time on that last one (but, for your peace of mind, we do employ the kind of waivers described in the book.) As far as the safety and well-being of our participants goes, we're very diligent about this in our tour preparation. You also need to apply your common sense, of course, if you're leading a team, and it would be wise of you to help your co-leader understand this part of the "leadership contract" through your meetings with them as they will serve as your "competent person at the other end."

Let's take a deeper look at the middle two points: "Helping the group achieve its goals" and "Helping create a quality experience."

Reflection question #2: Recalling the definition of leadership that we highlighted in week 1: "Leadership is the capacity to move others towards goals shared with you, with a focus and competency they would not achieve on their own", what goals do you think your leadership should help whatever group you are leading to achieve?


The third point, "helping create a quality experience", is the most critical one in my mind. This involves taking responsibility for making the quality of the experience as high as possible for those we lead, as Graham has noted.

He highlighted a few "basic responsibilities for making a trip 'fun'. I found two to be noteworthy for our purposes: building and maintaining positive relationships inside the team, and being a coach as well as a leader. I interpreted this last one not to mean that we should try to pass on our "superior" knowledge or ability in any situation the team encounters (which would be the definition of teaching, not coaching,) but that we should constantly be on the lookout for ways that our team members can test and improve their abilities and skills.

To me this means things like challenging people to refine their testimonies (and to actually give them,) to lead a devotion, to step out and engage people after a concert, to interact with the "unlovelables" in the culture, to "greenline", and in other ways within the bounds of common sense, to not sacrifice the learning opportunities that might result in less "effectiveness" in outward ministry.

I am confident that all of you will embrace this responsibility fully. The hardest part of helping to create a positive experience is not knowing how to begin... it is understanding where our responsibility ends, and learning to be okay with that. The following quote from Robert Birkby ranks as one of my top 5 excerpts from this book:

"Leaders can inspire, teach, entertain, and in many other ways shape the framework upon which an adventure can unfold. Within that framework, however, group members must bear much of the responsibility for the quality of their own experiences. Leaders offer opportunities, but then it is up to those they are leading to make of those opportunities what they will. The choice of having a fantastic experience instead of a disappointing failure is often a matter of perception, both at the moment it is occurring and in hindsight, but the choice is definitely there for each group member to make."

I include this quote as a point of encouragement. It largely speaks for itself. While your responsibilities as a team leader do include measurables like presenting the vision to the team, providing them with direction and encouragement, and serving our partners and their needs while ensuring the safety and health of the team, your internal responsibility is largely to cultivate an environment in which team members are presented with opportunities for spiritual and personal growth. What they do, or don't do, with those opportunities, is outside the scope of your responsibility, because it is outside of your control. And it should be.

We cannot force people to choose the things we think (or even know) are in their best interest. There is, of course, an obvious spiritual parallel here, because this is exactly how God "leads" us. And as surely as it breaks His heart when we choose the ways that He does not want us to choose, it will break yours when your team members do likewise. And yet God may still use the outcome of their choices to form them in the image of His son.

It is understandable that we in leadership often accept too much of the blame for any dissatisfaction among the people we lead, because we understand that we bear much responsible for the quality of their experience. Don't lose sight of the fact that they also bear responsibility for it. And remember that when one person chooses poorly, you still have an obligation to lead the rest of the team. Don't allow the poor choices of a few to derail your focus on giving everyone else the opportunity to choose well.

Add your own comments to this point (if you'd like) as reflection question #3


There were a few other good points in this chapter that I opted not to dig into. If you have anything to share on one of the three points below, please do so as reflection question #4,

-Pp 76-77: Your thoughts, feelings and behaviors affect the world around you (taking responsibility for the emotional spillover from one part of your life into another.)

-P. 82: Don't stand on your authority for the sole purpose of getting your way. (Why? It inhibits the growth of others!)

-Pp. 82-83: Being a good follower. Serving as a model for the supportive "followership" you appreciate when you are in charge.

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