November 14, 2010
June 7, 2010
Here I consider the future of our Alabama Christian Freaks group, and equally importantly some of the lessons I’ve learned about leadership that I hope to apply in future endeavors.
Intro: The future of ACF
Naturally the drive home from Birmingham gave me a good chance not only to assess the sock drive but also to ponder where ACF is headed and to reflect on some of the bigger picture themes about leadership, my personality, and what it takes for my leadership to produce successful outcomes.
The sock drive itself was the result of some conversations between S and me. These conversations were open to all, but the aforementioned storm the last weekend of April narrowed participation. S emphatically asserted the tendency of groups like this, especially as they involve younger people, to die out after a few meetings if there’s no call to action. We talked about getting some bands together and planning an event. Because I’ve never promoted a rock show, this was way out of my comfort zone. But I was willing to attempt it if doing so would benefit the group. However, as we discussed it we arrived at consensus that some of the same purposes would be met by a service project. That’s why we ended up doing a sock outreach.
Now it’s time for me to bow out of “leadership” of ACF. I will be going to school several states away, and it might be a good time to transition to another leader anyway. Perhaps God will bring along someone else who can move the project forward. I see no reason to delete the Facebook group, so perhaps it will just sit there serving the same function as 99% of groups on social networking sites, helping people to identify with a group without really doing anything. Maybe something in between will happen, with a robust online discussion or occasional potluck dinners or one rock show a year or who knows? Obviously it’s up to God to make of it what he wills.
I put the word leadership in scare quotes because there might be a feeling that I didn’t adequately perform as a leader. I won’t pull any punches here: This is a pattern that makes me very reluctant to organize a group. When someone says to me, “Go ahead! You had the idea, now make it happen,” I immediately fret that these things tend to end up in dissatisfaction with my approach to making it happen. Invariably, the calls to “make it happen” don’t fully consider issues of leadership style, of leadership strengths and weaknesses. So the project lurches forward before the right complementary co-leaders are in place.
Strengths and weaknesses
Here’s the thing: All of us have strong and weak points, and both have direct impact on our effectiveness as leaders. All of us need other people in our lives to help us grow on the weak points. Some of my strengths are:
- Developing a vision
- Buying into my own vision at the outset, without needing anything tangible to latch onto
- Selling others on that vision
- Passionately building relationships to help others connect
- Open-mindedness; a desire to listen to all points of view and build consensus
Some areas where I need to learn to be better are:
- Weeding out those plans that aren’t viable to keep them from choking out those that are
- Having confidence in a vision even when short-term circumstances make its success uncertain
- Maintaining my enthusiasm once I start to feel that the project is futile, even though it may not actually be futile
- Finding other people who can compensate for my weaknesses, hence people to whom I can delegate certain tasks I’m not good at
- Bugging others to follow through with their commitments
- Difficulty insisting on the rightness of my own view when consensus can’t be reached.
I often joke that I have 100 ideas a day, but I can’t tell which are the one or two worth following up on. A lot of these weaknesses derive from my fear of charging ahead halfway into a project, only to find that it wasn’t viable from the outset. You could say it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I honestly don’t think that latter list of items makes me unsuitable for any sort of leadership. Better to be self-aware and know what you need to address than continue in denial or ignorance, unaware of the flaws that others are recognizing and complaining about behind one’s back! (And who hasn’t worked for the classic self-unaware “pointy-haired boss” sort of manager?)
Conclusion: Counting the cost
If I had this to do over again, knowing the possibility that people might be dissatisfied with the outcome, I would have to assess very carefully whether it was worth it to try to lead. But perhaps even my carefully hedged language overrates the actual level of dissatisfaction with the outcome. Perhaps the fact that we even got together four times this year and showed the love of Christ to a few homeless and others in Birmingham is itself worth the effort. That was sort of my expectation going in, that even just getting a few “underground” types together was a huge step forward, even if it didn’t lead to some massive movement.*
But I’m INFP! I don’t deal well with rejection. It’s very hard for me to step into something that might open myself up to criticism. I crave feedback, but then my INFP nature causes me to overrate any negative feedback in my own mind, to take criticism as condemnation. Perhaps I should push back more aggressively: “Dammit! We met the goals I set out when I first started getting people together. We got people together. We built relationships.”
So here’s my conclusion: the next time I put forth a vision and someone challenges me to lead its implementation, I will be open-minded about taking on the mantle of leadership. However, I will carefully “first sit down and count the cost, whether [I have] enough to complete it.” (Luke 14.28) I will aggressively lay out my needs to succeed. I will inquire about complementary co-leaders who might be able to compensate for my weak spots. I will probably point the person challenging me to read this post.
And then, if we feel like God is putting the right people in place to complement me, I’ll go forward.