I had a memory this week. Surprisingly, it got me thinking about the dangers of leadership.
My Cowboy Lunchbox and Batman Keychain
I was five years old when my family moved to Germany. Before the flight, my mom had packed up a “suitcase” for me, which I was very excited about. That suitcase was actually one of those old metal lunchboxes we used to take to school. This one had cowboys on it—and it was so cool!
We flew from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey, and from Newark to Germany (maybe there was a stop in London, but I can’t remember for sure). While we were on our layover in Newark, my parents bought me a little plastic keychain…with Batman on it!
I loved this keychain just like I loved that “suitcase.” In fact, I still have that keychain! I’m not sure where it is at the moment, but every now and then when we’re doing some cleaning, I find that keychain, usually in a drawer. (It’s probably buried somewhere in my nightstand drawer right now!)
The Simplicity of Childhood
But it’s not just the memories of those items, it’s the feelings.
Safety. Security. Simplicity.
I know not everyone had a safe and secure childhood. And mine certainly had its challenges.
But isn’t that what we long for? Even as adults, we long for safety, for security, for simplicity.
Sadly, those things are not guaranteed. Not as adults. And certainly not as leaders.
In fact, leadership often calls us to give these up. Sometimes we have to give up safety and security, especially if we are leading change. And simplicity is just out the window!
Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky refer to this as Leadership on the Line. That’s the title of their book, in fact. They make the case that leading change can be dangerous. Because there will be pushback. There may even be sabotage from those we are leading.
Surviving Dangerous Leadership
So, how do we lead in the midst of disruption and danger?
Here is the answer: Friends. Relationships. Allies.
We need people who will support us and encourage us and challenge us through the dangers of leadership. We need allies who will be there for us and even go to bat for us when things get hard.
Too many of us in ministry leadership tend to go it alone. Either we don’t have the time to build friendships. Or we don’t have the courage. Or maybe we just don’t think it’s important.
But it is so important.
And that’s my prayer for you. Find a friend. Find a confidante. Find an ally.