Leadership – Control or Empower?
Posted on September 21, 2014
There are a variety of leadership models at work in the world today. Though my experience is limited, I perceive a common thread in these leadership paradigms which is out of alignment with the person of Jesus. The common thread? Control and/or abdication of personal calling and passion in order to live out someone else’s vision.
Several years ago a mentor made the following off-the-cuff statement, “You cannot live someone else’s vision.” Simple but oh so profound! In the moment I felt refreshed by the comment but over the last few years that statement has come to mind again and again creating clarity and raising new questions. You cannot live someone else’s vision. Stunning. True. Scary. It’s scary because many people are living out another person’s vision. There is a perception that only 2% of the world can have a vision and the other 98% of the world was created by God to serve the 2%.
I couldn’t disagree more. What if the 2%’s role is to unlock vision in the other 98%? What if the 98% have a gift to impart to unlock the 2% in a perspective they need? What if vision/leadership/etc. was never intended to be held by a few but distributed to the many? What if influence is the highest level of leadership? What if influence has nothing to do with positions or titles, but a desire to see what someone else is seeing? When we control others because we believe we know what is best for them, it sounds like it could be loving. However, what we don’t realize is we stunt someone’s growth as we create systems of dependency on who we are, what we think, and what we are called to do. What if leadership is more about helping others discover the God-given gift and vision for their lives? What if leadership is about giving power and allowing people to be self-controlled rather than taking power and controlling others?
My hunch is we don’t lead this way because we fear chaos and people acting in their own self-interest. The problem is we can wrongly perceive change when people are not allowed to dream their own dreams. We can perceive an impact that is merely fear of rejection. It can be easy to create a culture of people telling us only what they perceive we want to hear rather than what they really think. If we want to change the world and I mean truly transform it, we must re-visit what transformation truly is.
Transformation is a new substance that inherently has new habits and practices that are congruent with that substance. Transformation is NOT new practices and habits trying to become a new substance. That’s performance. In terms of following Jesus, performance is trying to become something that Jesus already made you. It creates a sense of frustration because you can never do enough to feel ok with God and others. Let’s not lead others into a performance orientation that causes harm over the long haul. Friends, performance driven leadership is the way that most spheres of the society operate. What have you done for me lately is the ethos of these environments.
Let’s lead in our places of influence in a way that reveals God to a world that is use to fear and control. Will it cause a mess? Most likely. Most people don’t know how to live in freedom; therefore, there is a learning curve of realizing self-interest is not self-control. There is a learning curve in learning self-interest is not life-giving and joyful. But when someone, by God’s grace, discovers the bliss and joy of allowing the God of heaven reveal Himself in them, to them, and through them life becomes joyfully adventurous!
Let’s give people room to discover, room to fail, and room to grow. Let’s trust the Holy Spirit’s leadership is more robust than any leadership model we could ever dream up. Let’s lead in a way that we don’t get credit and we don’t need it. Let’s allow Jesus to be himself in us and through us. Let’s think and act different. Let’s do it!