RLL 34--Inverted Leadership (part 3 of 4)
From Chapter 5 ('Stealing a Seat or Tripping a Traveler: Intentions vs. Outcomes') and Chapter 6 ('Selling History to High School Students: Lead Through Learning--What Does That Look Like?')
Greetings again, everyone, and welcome to the latest Real Life Leading blog update! This week's update features sneak peaks from the next two chapters of my upcoming book Inverted Leadership: Lead Others Better By Forgetting About Yourself.
From Chapter 5:
In studying the Bible closely, we see that both our actions as well as our motives or intentions are of utmost importance. With Jesus, it was not just about giving Himself up for us; it was about doing it because it was God’s will. We see this in how He prays aloud on multiple occasions, even stating that the reason for the prayer is so that others might know better what Jesus was doing. And as with all of the leadership principles in this book, there is an element of ‘both-and’ at play: in this chapter, we want to look at how focusing on intentions or outcomes changes our leadership and how we relate to others.
Part I: Is It The Thought That Counts, Or Is The Road To Hell Paved With Good Intentions?
In the Middle Ages, the most powerful institution in Europe was the Roman Catholic Church. The church was the largest landowner, the local priests were involved in the people’s lives from birth until death, the church was responsible for helping the poor and caring for the sick, and the church also was seen as having power over the most important aspect of a person: his or her eternal soul. Thus, in the centuries before the Protestant Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church believed that part of its job was to make sure that church doctrine was taught accurately and without any dissent or disagreement to the people of Europe and beyond.
Despite much of the good that the church did--and there was a lot of good that the Medieval church did--this desire to stamp out any heresy (any beliefs or statements that went against official church teachings) led to many abuses, most notably by the Spanish Inquisition. The Inquisition was a type of church court established in the 15th century by Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, the same ruling couple that sponsored Columbus’s first voyage in 1492. The purpose of the Inquisition was to stamp out heresy, and in order to do that, the leaders often resorted to torture in order to get people to confess to various heretical acts and statements.
Estimates about how many people were killed by the Inquisition vary widely, but at a minimum the number is in the thousands. Now, I believe that a commitment to teaching true doctrine is a good thing, just as teaching accurate history is a good thing. However, I also believe that the Inquisition may be the world’s greatest example of something that was begun with a good motive but which also led to highly negative unintended consequences. The motives and the intentions were good, but judging through the lens of history, the results were negative.
In a somewhat different context, C.S. Lewis talks about how our motives and our intentions matter as much or even more than our actions and the outcomes that result from them. In Mere Christianity, Lewis talks about how if we were traveling on a train and we stepped away from our seat for a moment, if another person took our seat innocently unaware that the seat was claimed already, we are unlikely to be angry at the other traveler except for possibly a moment’s annoyance. When our good sense kicks in, we realize they probably were unaware that we had been sitting there, and thus though we are inconvenienced, we are not really angry about it. It is a simple case of a misunderstanding.
This is then contrasted with someone who, while walking down a hallway, purposely though unsuccessfully puts out a leg to trip us. In this situation, even though the person trying to trip us was unsuccessful, we are going to be rightfully angry or irritated at them for their intent to harm us, even when we did not suffer any real consequences. I have always found this to be a very telling illustration since, in one situation we suffered a very real negative consequence, while in the other situation nothing bad actually happened to us. However, we are angry in the second case and not in the first. This is because of the intention of the person in the second situation contrasted with the innocent mistake of the first.
We see this everyday in a variety of contexts, especially when we are in leadership roles. That is, we see some people make innocent mistakes that we often are not angry about even if they have large consequences. We also see people who, through conscious neglect or lack of care, cause situations that could have become catastrophes. Even if the catastrophe is averted, the leader is often much more frustrated with the person who made a conscious bad decision than with the person whose mistake was much more innocent. Thus, this chapter will be showing how intentions matter but good intentions alone are not enough and also about how outcomes matter but not more than people and relationships. Therefore as a leader, it is our job to find the balance between those things and, as in all cases, to err on the side of serving others and preserving relationships as much as possible.
From Chapter 6:
As Christian leaders, we must constantly be seeking out deeper and fuller knowledge of God through studying His Word. We should also be focused on learning how to become better leaders in the various roles we will fulfill throughout our lifetimes. Sometimes this is done formally, as in a college or high school, and sometimes this is done informally, as in a small group or through independent reading. But however it is pursued, we must constantly be seeking out more and more knowledge. As C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, “God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you, you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all.” As Christian leaders, we must engage our hearts and our minds as we pursue Godly leadership in our lives.
There are two main reasons that leaders must continually be staying up to date and informed about new techniques, procedures, and philosophies in our particular areas of involvement, while also remaining true to our foundational principles and beliefs. For me, that means paying attention to how education and soccer coaching are changing and evolving both in the classroom and outside of it. Your areas of involvement may be drastically different, but the key component is the same: leaders must be learners, and we must always be looking for ways to continue educating ourselves and learning more about our chosen fields. Education is extremely important even though that may not mean a formal, classroom-style education.
The second reason this is important is that Golden Rule revisited: lead how you want to be led. Most of us want to be led by someone who is constantly learning and growing rather than being led by someone who simply refuses to learn due to pride or laziness. Remember the great quote from Coach John Wooden: “When you’re through learning, you’re through.” So let's explore this idea of leaders as learners.