Is Your Idea REALLY Best?
Let’s face it—we leaders like to get our own way. If we are brutally honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we would love to shove the opinions of others aside and make decisions without input. That’s why, in secret, many leaders complain about members of their teams: “They just won’t listen to me.” “They never do what they’re told.” “If they’d just fall in line, everything would go smoothly.”
Legos and Bobble Heads
Take the Lego Movie for example. The hero is a man—okay, a tiny yellow figure—named Emmett, who is called to be the savior the Lego world. He is supposed to be a “master builder” who can deviate from any set of directions and creatively build as needed. The problem is, Emmett is dull. When push comes to shove, the only “creative” thing he can build is a double-decker couch with a built in cooler. All the other master builders think it’s stupid. They are building space ships, super carriers, and extravagant ways of escape. However, when their ship gets blown up, what’s the one thing that can save everyone? You guessed it—the double decker couch.
Too often we assume that because an idea came from us, it’s the best one. The leader’s direction should be the best, right? We’ve all heard a million times that there is “no I in Team.” But why does your team exist? To affirm the leader’s decisions? To act as the leader’s sounding board? Once I heard someone say of teams, “Their best thoughts are catalysts to push leaders to a final solution.” In other words, the most we can ever expect from the contributions of our team is creative fuel with which a leader can develop winning ideas. But a team of “yes men” is worthless. You might as well fill your office with a bunch of bobble heads—they can affirm your unilateral decisions as well as anyone.
Let’s take this a step further. Most of us can reach the point of letting other adults help make decisions. But what about student leaders? One of the reasons we struggle to allow students to lead is that things will inevitably get messy. What if the project gets out of control? What if we get egg on our face? What if their harebrained ideas fail? These are all valid questions, yet we also sit around complaining about our students’ apathy. Our students should be engaged—in the amazing ministry we are doing. We want them to lead—while we are still telling them what to do. They are the church of today—as long as they aren’t making decisions that will affect tomorrow.
Help Me Help You
But we don’t always have to choose. It doesn’t have to be my way OR yours. Leaders don’t have to be afraid of getting pushed aside because we aren’t experts on every topic. More often, our job is to guide those around us to arrive at final solutions. This is a fundamental shift from, “Help me make the best decision,” to, “How can I help you make the best decisions?”
We also can’t say, “Go ahead and lead,” without offering support. Leaders have to find a healthy balance between over-involvement and under-involvement, taking over for their followers like parents doing their kids’ science fair project and stepping back like parents who aren’t home at all. What the Lego Movie illustrates is that by working together, making a plan, and listening to the direction of others the characters could change the world.
Fear creeps in when we are told the old guard must step aside for the new. But this isn’t accurate. It’s not about laying down and getting out of the way. It’s about putting our ideas on the chopping block; recognizing that sometimes they will be used, other times someone else’s idea will be better, and most of the time the final solution will be a combination of both, morphed together into something remarkable. Those who have been around for a while have life experience; youth have a fresh perspective. Both are valuable. Both are needed.
There comes a point at which we need to stop whining and start participating. Our ideas are not always the best, and that shouldn’t be threatening. Leading is serving. It is genuinely placing others before ourselves. The funny thing about service—it requires our involvement, our initiative. It just means we might have to barbecue a sacred cow or two.
What do you think? How do you find the balance between micromanaging and disengaging?
About the Author
Leneita Fix co-founded Frontline Urban Resources with Jeffrey Wallace to equip, coach, and speak into the lives of those working with families living in a “survival mode” mentality. They refer to this thinking as the “new urban.” Combined, they carry almost four decades of experience in the family ministry setting, most of it in traditional urban ministry. However each… Read More