Real Life Leading 24: Two Tees to Better Leadership
Unfortunately, we have all seen it: a family undone, a business gone under, a previously thriving community or relationship split or broken due to poor decisions by the leadership. In many of these cases, the decisions were entirely avoidable. How? Here are two “-tys” (pronounced “tees”) to better leadership: humility and accountability. In the Bible, there are many different verses that talk about the corrupt nature of man since the Fall. I teach about it in my classroom as the starting point for our worldview discussion on the first day of every new semester.
So, how do we go about avoiding this creeping corruption in our hearts, homes, and communities? Humility and accountability. The first is inward and the second is outward. That is, humility is required because we must be willing to look within ourselves and admit that we, not just ‘other people,’ are prone to corruption and deceit and selfishness. Remember being a teenager and how hard we worked to hide things from our parents? Remember being an athlete and seeing just how much we could get away with before the referee called us for a foul?
The truth is, we’re programmed to want to do whatever benefits ourselves, even if it comes at the expense of others, and this is a double-edged sword. In some ways, it is good: we do need to take care of ourselves via eating and drinking, breathing and sleeping. But we often then take those things too far and try to provide ourselves with other benefits that can only be gotten by depriving others of something, and this is where the danger comes in.
I see this in my classroom when students copy each other’s homework. This may seem insignificant, but in my opinion it is very revealing: if I can’t trust students to do a simple task like homework without cheating, why should I trust them with larger tasks as they get older and leave school and enter college or the workforce? Students typically respond with, “It’s just homework, it’s not a big deal.” Well, yes and no. It may or may not be a huge deal right now, but it’s creating a habit, a lifestyle, of cutting corners, of not following the rules, and of shirking responsibility, and it is also depriving yourself of the opportunity to learn something. In the long run, it is the habit, not the single homework assignment, that is the big deal. Copying homework is a very small, yet common, example of deceit: turning in work that isn’t yours and getting a grade you didn’t earn. Again, it may seem small, but it’s not.
The first step, then, is to recognize that, as Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things.” We are all given to varying levels of self-serving deceit, and the first step in dealing with that is to admit it and recognize it in ourselves. So ask yourself: in what ways do you allow your own desires to override those of the people you are supposed to be serving? Remember how we define leadership here at Real Life Leading: confident humility (the leadership philosophy upon which all of this is based) is “others-centered, servant leadership; the art of positively influencing others to help them become better versions of themselves.” We can’t do that if we are serving ourselves, so let us be willing to admit that we often stumble, in order that we can take steps that will help us to stumble less often.
The second step in dealing with this issue is accountability, having a person or system in place by which our decisions are monitored and in which someone we love and trust can help us stay on the right track. How many of us know a person that seems to be utterly unaware of a particular personal habit or trait that anyone else sees within a few minutes of meeting them? We all have blind spots in the way we see ourselves and our choices, and thus it is imperative that we have a person or a system in place which can help us overcome those blind spots. We need accountability from those we love and trust if we are to truly lead others how we should. Accountability can be tricky because it forces us to be vulnerable and willing to admit we did something wrong; it is also necessary to make sure that you really do trust those holding you accountable to gently correct you, rather than simply gloating over every mistake you make.
So, to encourage and help yourself, find someone you trust and ask them to hold you accountable in your leadership. When you do something that serves yourself at the expense of others, they should have the right to call you on it, and you have to be willing to listen (this is where the humility comes in, over and over again)! If you are not willing to listen to someone else who is holding you accountable, your pride may be leading you astray, rather than allowing humility to bring you back to the right path of repentance and correction.
The difficult truth is that we are all prone to corruption, to selfishness, and to wanting things our own way. So we need to recognize that, admit it, and ask for God and those around us to help us not give in to those selfish impulses. Most of our giant mistakes didn’t start out that way; they started as small mistakes that grew into giant ones. Very rarely do we plan to make poor decisions; most often, we make them because we were self-serving, rather than focusing on others. So in order to stay on the right path of leadership, let us remember we need two things: the humility to admit that we don’t always make the best decisions and accountability, someone or something to call us out--hopefully with gentleness and respect--when we’re doing the wrong thing.
Action Plan: This week, ask one person you trust to hold you accountable in your area of leadership, to gentle correct you when they think that your decision-making isn’t what it necessarily should be.