In the relationship between leader and follower, the banking principle of deposit and withdrawal is constantly at work. When something positive is said or given to a follower, a deposit is made. When something difficult has to be said, such as talking to someone about poor job performance or consistent tardiness, a withdrawal is made. Things can go very wrong if the withdrawal turns out to be larger than previous deposits.
Where do you go to be completely honest with what you are feeling, thinking and going through without being judged? Who hears your heart with all its fears, joys and concerns? Who do you have to be straight up in your face honest with you, to let you hear the hard truth even when you do not want to hear it? Many of us, especially leaders, do not have such honesty and accountability in our lives. And for many, the consequences have been tragic.
I have come to learn that such honesty and accountability is essential for us as leaders. It helps to avoid the disillusionment of self-sufficiency. I have heard many people, myself included, say, “I know if I had a place to be honest and be held accountable, I would not have made many of the mistakes I made.”
In Acts 6, when the first century church was growing by the thousands and social needs were growing as well, a problem developed which the Apostles were asked to resolve.
One group complained that their people in need were not being served. The Apostles listened, then explained why they could not be the answer to the problem: they could not leave what they were called to do in order to do something others were called to do.
The same saying applies to leaders. Some leaders command an audience by their eloquence and forceful presence. But these are quickly lost when the leader’s talk does not match the walk. Leaders must tell people what is important and then live it out in their own words.
When conflict exists in a relationship and all you do is try to avoid it, you are only allowing it to get worse. The longer you wait to resolve it when you don’t know what to do, also makes it worse.
Leaders who lead well are leaders who have embraced their real self and are comfortable with who they in Christ. They know they have weaknesses and strengths, they emotionally aware, and they can be honest with themselves and others about who they are.
“It makes sense that people who know themselves and who can relate genuinely to others by avoiding self-protective roles have a better chance of succeeding in leadership, especially today. Leaders who strive to acknowledge all sides of themselves and who allow all sides of themselves to be acknowledged will increase their capacity to lead in difficult times.” Richard H. Ackerman and Pat Maslin-Ostrowski
In my work as a leadership coach to pastors, I have come across many pastors who are overworked, tired, overwhelmed and/or burned out. They have lost the passion, joy, focus and purpose of their call to ministry.
I do not believe God has called any of us to work ourselves to death – in some cases literally so – while neglecting our well-being and that of those we are called to lead. Too many leaders seem to have made a badge of honor out of leading like this.
When leaders allow themselves to be overworked, they rob themselves, others, and God of the best they are able to offer. They resort to leading out of obligation rather than calling. They show up not because they want to, but because they have to. Their leadership skills begin to lose sharpness.
As a leader, one thing is certain: you will face relational challenges. At times these challenges are easily resolved; other times they are time- and energy-consuming.
The easily resolved challenges generally are those which arise from simple misunderstandings. Recently I discovered that someone assumed I was upset with them because someone else had spoken to me about them. After they spoke with me of their perception, I had the opportunity to explain that it was a misunderstanding. They then were able to put it behind them and move on.
As a leader your use of words is by far the most influential tool you have for controlling and influencing those you lead. Your words define the culture of the organization. The question is not whether your organization has a culture, but what kind of culture you have created or are creating?
Let us look at some ways in which your words help create the culture of your organization.
Leaders often are tempted to take too much credit for success and too much blame for failure within the organization they lead. Although in faith-based organizations the tendency often is to deflect praise away from oneself, those in leadership often receive most of the credit or most of the blame. This is even more likely when the leader has a dominant personality (personality-driven leadership).
Exodus 32 presents a fascinating scenario of a leader who refuses to take either credit or blame, but who maintains responsibility and focus.