I direct a Missions & Outreach program at the university I once attended. With that being said, 30% of people in my life know exactly what that means, the other 70% of people have no clue. I could go on and on about the job responsibilities of myself and my staff within a given year, but needless to say, a main component of my job is to lead.
“The other main component is for me to know who I am leading, where we are going, and ultimately, why it matters.”
In this small journey, I’ve learned there are quite a few reasons why leadership is this difficult. What they don’t seem to tell you about leading people is that leadership is very lonely at the top. Actually, they do tell you that, but we don’t listen. Shocker. What I mean is not that it gets lonely because suddenly no one likes you anymore and no one wants to be your friend and you go home sad every day because no one “gets you”. I mean that it gets lonely in a high leadership position simply because the people around you and below you just can’t relate to the tension, the struggle, the worry, and the stress that you might feel in leading people.
You never understand that emotional, financial, or personal responsibility until you’re the one in the seat, guiding the journey and direction of people, positions, and departments while striving to stay true to your overall mission statement.
People around you might feel that weight or tension, but no one will carry it quite like you do.
The more I grow to understand this, the more empathy, grace, and compassion I have for leaders in places much higher than me – whether or not I agree with their decisions or methods. I might not agree with how certain problems were solved or how various people were treated, but I can agree that they probably feel even more weight and loneliness than I do.
“When I am feeling challenged to honor another leader because I might not think they ‘deserve’ the honor, I remind myself that I don’t deserve it either.”
I remind myself of the chair that they sit in and all the things about that chair that I do not understand from where I sit. I remind myself of their humanity. I remind myself that we are all just people, honestly trying to do the best we can. And to me, that is always the most important principle in leadership – the ability to see beyond yourself.
When I formulate my leadership based on my own biased preferences and views, I forget about the souls attached to my leadership. I forget that I don’t need to believe the right decision was made for me to honor another human as a leader. I forget that my son’s generation might not look back on ours determining if our methods, models, strategies, or decisions we made were right. They might really just look to us to decide how to treat people in places of authority, how we honor those we don’t agree with, or how we chose to respond when decisions were made that were outside of our control.
I know I’m going against the grain here, but that’s what I do. I don’t do it perfectly, and I don’t do it everyday.
“I wish I could honor in my heart as easily as I speak about it with my mouth.”
But when I can get myself back to a place of remembering, “Andrea, your leadership is not about you,”I am better for it. The people I lead are better, and my soul is healthier. When I lay down the need to control, I pick up the ability to lead in freedom, honor, and truth. And if that is all I am remembered for in my leadership at the end of my life, I hope my son finds this to be enough. And I hope he finds himself better on the other side of learning that it is not about him, but about the hearts and souls of so many people who will come after him. The names he doesn’t know and the faces he will never see, hopefully those realities are how he defines his position and posture as a leader one day.