Today’s post is part of a syncroblog on leadership sponsored by Evangelical Seminary. The question up for discussion: What makes a good leader? Click here to join the conversation and see what others are saying.
My husband and I are smack dab in the middle of the toughest leadership assignment we’ve ever had. Not military service. Not deadline editing. Not youth ministry.
With two tiny followers, following us 24/7, our leadership styles become painfully obvious. My husband, at his best, is a patient teacher, guiding our children in the ways of faith and life. At my best, I’m an encourager, cheering on their efforts to learn and grow and be independent.
At our worst? Well, that’s a different story.
I find that in parenting, as in other leadership positions, finding balance is frustrating. Our kids, who are 4 and 2, are past the point of needing us to help them all the time but not yet to the point where they don’t need us at all. When they were babies and solely dependent on us, tiring as it was, I knew what to expect of my leadership. Now, though, sometimes they need me and sometimes they don’t.
So leadership becomes like a dance. And not so much the graceful ballroom type of dancing but more the hokey pokey kind. (Sing it with me: “You do the hokey-pokey and you turn yourself around … that’s what it’s all about!”)
A good leader knows when to put a hand in to help and when to take a step back and let the one being led do the work.
Like when Jesus called Peter to walk on water. He didn’t take Peter’s hand and help him out of the boat. He let him take the first steps. Then, when he was (almost literally) in over his head, he stepped in to keep Peter from drowning. He let the disciples watch him, follow him, learn from him, then he sent them out on their own to minister.
When my 4-year-old is smearing peanut butter all over a slice of bread (and the table and the chair and the floor), it’s so easy to want to take the knife and do it for her. When my 2-year-old wants to grab the milk jug from the fridge (and I hover nervously so he doesn’t drop it), it’s easy to take it from his little hands and do it myself. As leaders, it’s easy to do the hard stuff for the people in our care. We can micromanage, hover and criticize because the task wasn’t done the way we would do it. It’s harder to step back and let people learn.
Good leaders can see when a person’s in trouble and needs help. Good leaders recognize the right time to let someone run with a project and give it their own personality. Good leaders trust. And encourage. They teach and teach again, with patience and compassion. Good leaders step back and hope the ones they’ve led go further than they ever did.
I’ve read that good leaders don’t make followers; they make more leaders.