Friday, August 14, 2009

Real Leaders:...Lead, Follow and Get Out of the Way

The task of leadership is always in a state of constant change. It doesn’t matter whether you lead a business, a department, a family, a church, or a small group. True leadership demands the ability to be flexible, knowing when decisive leadership is required. True leaders sometimes know when to follow, stepping aside to let someone else lead for a specific season or part of the project. And sometimes, leaders step aside to let the tribe lead.

Seth Godin’s book "Tribes" describes this new type of leader. Sometimes it is okay not to take the lead, sometimes it’s okay to let someone else speak up and show you the way. The power of this idea of a new dimension of leadership is simple: if you want to lead, then you can. But if this isn’t the right moment, if this isn’t the right cause, then hold off. Generous and authentic leadership will always step forward.

Here’s a great example: In the small home group which I "lead", a schedule change forced me to ask the group for someone else to step up for our next session. In this group of eight adults – all very capable leaders in their own right – there has always been a little reluctance to lead. But over the last six months or so, as our relationships have grown deeper and our conversations about sharing with others have become more intentional, the leadership spark within each person has begun to burn brighter.

When I asked someone else to lead the session, Gary, a member of our group, was quick to send this email to everyone:

I will be glad to…1) Lead, 2) Follow, or 3) Get out of the way. If nobody
else chooses #1, and everybody else is willing to do #2 or #3, then I will take
#1, and we’re in business.Don’t you love it when a simple request can be
magically transformed into an annoying, obtuse flow chart?

Gary is a brilliant guy; an engineer who has was a part of Jeff Gordon’s string of four NASCAR championship seasons. Now he owns his own company: a wind tunnel designed and built by him and a few team members. It stays busy 16 hours a day, 6 days a week, testing everything from race cars to bicycles. His reply to our group was typical, but it demonstrates this type of leadership perfectly.

Tribes need leadership. Sometimes one person leads, sometimes more. People want connection and growth and something new.

How are you leading in your “tribe?”

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