I began playing guitar when I was 13 years-old because I wanted to create beautiful music. Do you believe me?
Well, to my 13 year-old hormone-addled mind, I began playing for something much more critical than the gift of beautiful music to the world…girls.
Little did I realize that the chords I was learning and the hair I was growing half way down my back would never, not even just once, woo a single girl until 34 years later. Now, my buzz cut symbolically waves the white flag to the advancing follicle attrition soldiers, and the chords are clunky and often out of tune; but, they woo my six year-old daughter into dancing every time I decide to pick up my rarely-played guitar.
Why am I confessing this little nugget of guitar-strumming-girl-attracting personal history? Because I think most of us leaders get into leadership for some of the same reasons pimply teenage boys play guitar: To win the girl. Not literally, of course, but many leaders are leading because it produces something we acutely felt as teenagers: the bailiwick of self-promotion. Only now, it’s more adult and the self-promotion is more about more income, more recognition and more control.
Today, I want to trace three very rough-hewn progressions of leadership to help us see how we arrive at the definition of leadership I mentioned at the conclusion of my last blog post. Admittedly, these aren’t really progressions as much as they are constituents of the way all of us lead at different times in our leadership journeys.
Garage Band Leadership
I don’t think most of us consciously move into leadership roles for glory and followership. Actually, I think many leaders simply “move up the ladder” as they perform their jobs well and can’t turn down income advancement opportunities. But, in this nascent stage of leadership development, it’s really hard not to be drawn to the recognition we receive from others and the power we have at our disposal to create followers.
Garage Band Leaders…
- See their job as who they are.
- See themselves through the eyes of those they lead.
- Seek to align their team to their personal vision.
- Followers follow because of charisma and inspiring vision.
Studio Musician Leadership
As a leader matures, usually around mid-life, we start to find leaders who have learned, upon reaching the apex of the corporate ladder, their ladder was leaning against the wrong wall. This usually coincides with a painful identity-stripping process internal to the leader and a newly-surfaced and paradoxical compassion for those they lead. These sorts of leaders, like studio musicians, are extremely valuable to any company as they can be quite experientially proficient, reliable and are more concerned with making great music with the team than being the star.
Studio Musician Leaders…
- See their jobs as not anything to do with who they are.
- See themselves accurately and others fairly.
- Seek to align their team to a shared vision.
- Followers follow because of relational connectively and compassion.
Finally, as all the false fronts crumble in a leader’s life leading him through many mini-deaths, the more fully mature leader reaches a place of true artistic leadership. A leader who has learned to lead from his personal emptiness has learned that this emptiness is the secret to leading from divine fullness. A leader who has stricken from his identity any notions of his being a “leader” can now lead purely from a place of being “beloved.” He knows the way to reach that place and wants to lead others there. A leader who has jettisoned her own view-obstructing plans in favor of God’s vision now finds internal latitude to empower others to find God’s vision.
- Strangely see their jobs as who they are once again, but this time it’s because they know being beloved can’t be stripped from vocation.
- Focus on themselves very rarely and God and others more often.
- Seek to free their team to catch a glimpse of God.
- Followers follow because they are drawn to an intuitive sense of God enfleshed in their leader.
My hope is that you can see how this admittedly crude maturation process informs the definition of leadership I proposed at the conclusion of my last blog post:
God frees us to bring life in Him.
We are able to lead others to greater freedom to the degree that we ourselves have learned to walk in freedom. (CLICK TO TWEET).