Swimming in the deep end

Today’s post is part of the second leadership synchroblog by Evangelical Seminary. This week’s topic: How do we define “depth” in leadership? (You can also read my contribution on the topic of “What makes a good leader?”)

I’m not a big fan of swimming. Oh, I can watch Michael Phelps or Missy Franklin or any other Olympic swimmer do their thing in primetime, but to suit up myself and do some laps? No, thanks.

Truth be told, the water sort of scares me. I’m good in the shallow end, where I can touch the bottom, but lead me into deeper waters and I start to envision drowning and dramatic rescues. My lungs start to burn thinking about holding my breath and I get leg cramps and … well, you get the idea. It’s not pretty in my head.

I sometimes feel the same way about depth. Deep people scare me a little. They’re so in tune with who they are and what they’re about. They’re comfortable with their weaknesses and failures and they don’t seem to care what other people think.

Me? I’m over in the kiddie pool of conversation, deflecting questions to other people like a beach ball in a game of keep away. I’m unnaturally curious about other people (it’s the journalist in me) but asking me to go deep is like asking me to jump off the high dive in front of an audience. It’s not going to happen. At least not without help.

And that’s where deep leaders come in.

© Lisa James | Dreamstime.com

If we stick with the swimming analogy, they’re in the deep end already. They’ve faced their fears and forged ahead in spite of them. They’ve been in over their heads, learned how to keep their heads above water without losing focus. They’ve gained strength and stamina from being in a place where few people tread. They’ve made the decision to step away from the easy, shallow waters and make waves in the deeper water.And deep leaders don’t exclude others from the deep end. They not only say, “Come on in, the water’s fine,” they swim back to those in the shallow end and guide the willing into deeper waters, sharing their experiences of going deep. They acknowledge that, yes, the deep end can be scary, but it won’t overwhelm us. Like these words from Scripture:

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.

Some of my deepest moments have come because of others who were willing to share the deep parts of themselves with me first. And they’ve been deep waters I’ve needed to pass through. Without a hand to guide me, I would have been overwhelmed.

Deep leaders have passed through the deep waters of life and are still swimming.

How would you define depth in leadership?

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2 thoughts on “Swimming in the deep end

  1. Pingback: The wrong way to lead « The Home Front

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