It is not all about me.

I have been running into a common theme lately: Leadership is not all about what you (as the leader) may want. Leadership is not about always getting your way. It is about casting a vision in front of people and then working with them to take your initial vision and turn it into something that everyone can take ownership in. Leadership is about seeing the next place you need to go as a group, and then having everyone get there together.

What do I mean? If I come to you with an idea that I have and ask for your help, but don’t allow you to have any input, will you be invested in the outcome of my idea? Not really. You would simply be helping me with one of my crazy ideas, and upon its completion would have very little lasting impact in your life.

Now, take the same scenario and tweak it a little bit. I have an idea that I bring to you. I tell you what I am wanting to do with it. I ask for your help, your advice, and your active input. You are excited about the idea and want to become a part. My idea has now become our idea. We work on it together. When we are finished, I doubt that it looks much like what I initially brought to you. The idea has changed…many times for the better.

Many years ago I worked in a small church setting. I was a youth pastor with a lot of energy and self proclaimed “brilliant” ideas. I did not understand the principle I have described above. I believed it was my responsibility to tell everyone else what we needed to be doing. What did I get in return? Leaders who did not know where we were going, or trust that I could get them there. I was too arrogant to admit that I didn’t know where we were going. I was the leader. I was going to get us there. Wherever there was. Had I joined with them and gave up the need to have things my way, who knows the good things we would have been able to accomplish together? It was a missed opportunity, but a step in my education of what leadership is.

Fast forward ten years. I am in a leadership role with a business group that I am associated with. I believe in the mission and purpose of the organization. I believe what in what we stand for. I feel the need to lead. However, I don’t feel the need to always have my way. I am eager to meet with people and hear their vision about what we are doing. As the groups leader, I want to share my vision and then work with them to get to a place that was better than any of us intended when we began. I want the organization to be better after my time as a leader is gone. I want others to want to step in and take the vision ever further. If I can accomplish this, I will feel like I have done what I am supposed to.

Who is that old guy?

I was reading the other night and a startling image caught me by surprise. The light of my iPad was shining in my face and I looked up for a moment and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Maybe it was just the half light of the screen that made my face look older? It wasn’t. It certainly accentuated the lines that didn’t used to be there. I almost didn’t recognize myself. When did my reflection start looking so old?

Ok. I am not that old, but I am certainly starting to feel older. I will be 33 later this week. I have been out of my twenties for a while now and am steaming on to bigger numbers in the 30 series. I haven’t been feeling it too much, but it doesn’t help that I had a coworker remind me that Jesus was crucified when he was 33. I thanked her…with sarcasm, but thanked her nonetheless. Just when I got over that, a guy at church called me sir yesterday. It happens, I suppose. Oh well.

Part of aging includes remembering. Marixa and I have been talking a lot lately about memories. What do we remember? How long has it been? What significance did that period of time have? What did we learn? This is what I pulled from the conversation: What we remember is important. What we do with it is more important.

You hear the hypothetical question all the time: if you could go back to when you were younger, knowing what you know now, would you do it? My answer? No. Sure it would be nice to go back and make better use of my teenage years, save some more money, not date some of the women I dated, and so on, but I wouldn’t be the same. If I made it back to where I am now with a different view of life I may not have the things that mean the most to me now: my wife, my son, etc.

It was all of those life experiences that have made me into the man that I am today. If I hadn’t made a lot of the blunders and idiot mistakes I made over the years, I would not be who I am. It has taken a while, but I am really starting to like the guy in the mirror. I am finally becoming comfortable being myself. I know myself much better these days. It was only through the process of self discovery (and getting older) that I got here.

The old saying is true. People who don’t learn from their mistakes are destined to repeat them. Those who don’t remember what happened, may walk down that road again. There are things in my past I am not proud of. There are choices I made that I would not make again. So, I remember them. I remember how it felt when I was going through them. I don’t want to go back so I choose a different way.

Yeah, he’s getting older. There are more lines on his face. There is much more gray on his head than there used to be, but they guy in the mirror’s life is getting better. I can’t go back and change what has happened in the past, but I am doing my best to take the memories I have and learn from them. The reflection is going to keep getting older, but the smile on his face has a chance to get wider as the years go by. I will take that over going back any day.

What is the problem with asking for help?

I have something to admit. There are times that I have a hard time asking for help. There is a prideful spot in me that believes I should be able to do whatever I undertake without help. Like it is admitting weakness or making less of myself to ask someone else to lend me a hand. News flash! It isn’t. There are things I can learn on my own and then there are times you have to find someone who really knows.

For instance, I need help buying  insurance. Despite what some of the companies on TV will tell you, it is a good thing to have an old fashioned insurance agent help you determine what kind of coverage you need for you home and auto. You need someone who is well versed in the subject to help you protect yourself should something unfortunate happen.

An example: if I go get insurance from one of the compaines that tempts me to pick my own coverage on the internet (without dealing with an agent) and I only get the state minimum coverage (because according to the commercial that is all I need), I put myself at great risk for Murphy’s Law to show up and kick me in the butt. State minimum coverage in Oklahoma for auto insurance is 25/50/25. That means you have 25 thousand dollars max for physical damage that you do to someone else’s vehicle, along with 25 thousand dollars medical coverage (max) for each injured person, with 50 thousand dollar max for all medical claims. If I only have the minimum coverage and I cause a wreck that totals a brand new 18 wheeler (some are in excess of 125+ thousand new for just the truck…it is another 50+ thousand for the trailer) I am on the hook legally for 175 thousand dollars in physical damages. My insurance policy will pay out my coverage and the people I wrecked can sue me for the rest. Not a good place to be in.

I have seen the study material that many agents use to get their licenses. There is a bunch of information. The good agents know it all very well. I think it better to ask for help in this situation.

This is only one example I could mention. There are a ton of other things in this life that I could try to go alone, but would be so much better off if I just asked for help in the first place. There is no shame in admitting that you don’t know how to do something. The shame comes when you realize that you need help and are too chicken to ask for it.

There is two verses from the book of Proverbs that sum up what I am trying to say:

The way of a fool seems right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. Proverbs 12:15 (I would say he not only listens to advice, but seeks it out.)

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. Proverbs 11:14

The older I get the more I realize I don’t have everything figured out. (Surprise, surprise.) There are things I know how to do well and rarely ask for help on. There are even more that I know I don’t know how to do and will gladly find someone who does.