By Rick Shallenberger, GCI-USA Regional Pastor
This is number 9 in Rick's series on leadership. For other articles in the series, click a number: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
I’ve had some great bosses in the many jobs I’ve had over the years. I’ve also had some not-so-great ones. Some seemed to bend over backwards to help me succeed; others seemed bent on making me look bad. As a result, in some jobs I’ve done well and been given more and more responsibilities, in other jobs I couldn’t wait to leave and spent much of my time looking for work elsewhere.
I’ll never forget the time I was called into the office and chewed out for goofing off on the job. I was working in production at the time, and was the supervisor of a small crew. The boss shared the many times he came on the floor and my crew was laughing about something, or sharing a story or seemingly having a good time, and he yelled at me that we were there to work, not goof off. I listened for a while and when he stopped his rant (and that’s what it was) I said, “If you check the records, you’ll find my crew is outperforming most of the other crews in the plant.” He snorted, said that was impossible, and called in the floor supervisor, who verified my comment.
The boss huffed and told us to get back to work and told me to stop having fun at work. I just looked at him and said, “Really? How am I supposed to tell my crew to not enjoy their work?”
He just glared at me. I shouldn’t have said anything—from that point things got worse. It seemed no matter what I did, he wasn’t happy. I felt like I was working with a large target on my back, and had no idea what to do about it. He found fault with all kinds of things and eventually wore me out. I began an earnest search for another job.
Years later, I ran into that boss and he asked me to join him for coffee. It was the last thing I wanted, but he persisted and I agreed to meet him. Imagine my surprise when he apologized: “Rather than encourage you and support you,” he said, “I let my pride get in the way and I lost one of my best employees.” He continued, “My problem was I was jealous of you and other crew leaders who had good teams. Your teams liked you, and I knew most people didn’t like me. Rather than learn from you, I made you my enemy. I was the boss, but I was full of arrogance rather than humility.” It was a conversation I won’t forget.
GCI’s ministry development consultant, GiANT Worldwide, provides a very helpful leadership development tool called Power Test. As illustrated in the diagram below, it makes a profound point that all leaders (pastors and denominational supervisors included) need to understand: You may be in charge, but to truly influence those you lead, you must answer their most basic question: “Are you for me?”
Many leaders get so focused on the outcome, they forget they aren’t there just to accomplish a production goal—they are there to influence and empower others. For that to happen, humility is required. Power plus humility leads to true influence.
When those you lead see you using your power to help them, to resource them, to empower and encourage them, they want to follow. The best example of this is Jesus—the one who has all power and authority, and who is always with us and for us. The Son of God took off his robe of light and might and entered the womb of a young Jewish girl—talk about humility! Following his gestation and birth he lived life filled with both power and humility (Heb. 2:9; Phil. 2:7; Matt. 11:29; Zech. 9:9).
The bottom line is this: true leaders are always for those they lead.