If you’ve been paying very close attention to the ‘Leadership Wednesday’ strand of this blog you’ll have spotted that one or two of the headings listed on the LW page have just been floating there unwritten for several months. This is because they are things that, for one reason or another, I haven’t quite been able to get my head around.
Take today’s topic for example. Every book I’ve ever read on Leadership, every message I’ve heard preached about it, everyone I’ve ever heard speak about it in any way has mentioned the importance of building good people around yourself, both in terms of hiring your teams and in who you choose to spend time with personally and professionally.
I’ve got a couple of problems with this, and have never been able to get the leaders I’ve known to give me any answers – so today is more about asking questions than sharing answers – if you can shed any light, I’d love to hear from you!
My first question is, quite simply, How?
It’s all very well if you’re naturally a strong, charismatic leader who people want to gather around – then you can pick and choose – but what if you’re an emerging leader, or even not a leader at all but want to learn from others? The thing about the good people is that everyone wants to be around them, and they are busy choosing who they want to build into their networks. If you’re a bit quieter or don’t really have anything to offer them, how do you build them around you?
One option is to seek out new, younger (or as yet untapped) leaders to bring onto your team, teach, nurture and build up. If you’re not yourself a high-flyer, though, they’re quickly going to want to move on – and you’ll want to encourage them to. So if you do your job well, pretty soon they won’t be ‘around you’ any more.
Secondly, what if you don’t have control over who’s on your team?
You may be a small group leader in a church or a ministry working with volunteers, or with people who have been assigned to you, or maybe you’ve just taken on a leadership role in an office or factory where the staff are pretty well established already. You can’t go round firing people just for the sake of being able to ‘head hunt’ the kind of people you want around you. There are very few jobs which allow you to pick your team all in one go. How do you work with what you’ve got, even if they’re not the best?
(In case anyone from the CCL welcome team is reading this, I want to make it very clear that this is only a theoretical question – you are all fantastic, and I’d definitely have hired you given half a chance, I’m just wondering what would happen had that not been the case!)
My third question is more of a philosophical objection to the premise: What about caring for the people who can’t be of use to you, but need building up?
It seems to me that Jesus didn’t look for the best, most dynamic speakers and administrators and leaders when building people around him – he took those who had willing hearts and would submit to and learn from him. It seems much more in keeping with his way of operating to seek out the weak, weary, sick, downtrodden and broken-hearted; to care more about those who need you than those who can feed you.
If I am standing around chatting after church, or at a work event, wouldn’t it be better for me to seek out the person standing on her own, looking lost and lonely rather than the person in the centre of the crowd who can bring me reflected glory and access to people of power and influence?
I want to spend time with people who will spur me to be better, do more, develop a closer walk with the Lord, but those people are already busy doing that for so many others, how can I ask them to spread themselves even thinner?