[I’m honored today to have David e White write a guest blog. He has terrific insight for all leaders. Take time to check out his bio below.]
Don’t Just Manage Symptoms, Yield to Transformation
by David e White
If all of your symptoms were gone, would you then consider yourself healed, whole or transformed?
Within the process of carrying out our responsibilities as leaders we are often called to deal with situations that require intervention and/or mediation. With our calendars full and priorities urgently pressing on us, it is understandable that we often assess health at a superficial level. If the crisis of the day has not served to burn the whole place down, good enough! We turn our back on the situation and carry on.
Sometimes we will even ignore warning signs as we deem them to be minor within the context of all that we are doing, like when the warning light on the dash of our car indicates low air pressure in one or more of our tires. We have seen the light on before and checked the tires with a pressure gauge, only to find that the tire was merely 1 or 2 psi low – no big deal. We become accustomed to ignoring gauges and warning lights and we continue driving forward, hoping for the best.
I have a friend who once told me about how she had to replace the engine in her mini-van. She had been so busy that she did not bother to stop and check the oil level, and found that the vehicle was not willing to negotiate with her to continue moving forward once it ran out of oil.
If you have been a leader for any length of time, you will have been told that self-care is important, so I will spare you the lecture – but simply point out that we can know something and ignore it at the same time, and that doesn’t really move us forward.
Maybe you can relate to how Gregory Campbell might have felt during the 2nd period of Game 3 in the 2013 Eastern Conference final of the National Hockey League playoffs. Campbell, a forward for the Boston Bruins, was struck by a shot and suffered a broken leg. His team was short-handed at the time, and he was unable to get off the ice, so he continued to try to play – with a broken fibula! They may have seen Campbell floundering, but no one in the stands would have known the extent of the injury.
I can relate to Campbell. I continued to serve when I knew that I was broken. I had been to several counselors to assess my situation, and all of them were fine with me returning to the game. In fact, my symptoms were often alleviated through their care, but my healing did not run deep enough to sustain me in the long run.
Now in my recovery, I look back and see that there is a theme woven through church life and leadership: If you can manage the symptoms, and all appears to be well – just keep playing the game. The need is great, for we are short-handed, and the game is on the line.
I was afraid of failure, and of letting others down. I was afraid of being discovered and of the judgment that might ensue. Locked in a battle of the will and imprisoned by my fear, I tried to become a better man in isolation – but I found that there was no way to win this battle on my own. While I would readily admit to holding the highest esteem for anyone who faced challenge and defeat with courage, I was at the same time terrified to be that guy; I was afraid to be the one I respected most.
Cutting to the chase
Why as leaders do we continue to drive forward when we know that something is wrong? What is so urgent and/or important that we are willing to ignore the signs that would suggest engine failure is imminent? The stories recorded here at fallenpastor.com (such as these) remind us of the dire consequences of ignoring our health.
James Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge, identify “modeling the way” as one of five practices of exemplary leadership. They are just two of a host of voices that would echo the same sentiment. The best of leaders lead by example. Given that there isn’t a single person on the planet who has not failed, is it possible that one of the greatest gifts we could pass on to others is the modeling of humility and courage to face our own brokenness?
It is a tragedy when we lose a leader. It would be a tragedy to lose you. Don’t be content with symptom management. Take the time to heal, and start a revolution in transformation by modeling the way for others.
About David e White:
I have over 20 years of executive leadership experience, but I’ve also been a laborer, salesperson, manager, and consultant – even a professional musician! I have experienced the thrill of rapid growth and prosperity, but also the pain of downsizing and recession. I have been the leader who made the magic happen – I’ve made the tough decisions – I have also been the guy that got blown up by decisions made by others, and even a few I made on my own. Through it all I have learned how to be resilient and thrive in the aftermath of both scenarios.
I write, speak and coach in the area of leadership and organizational resilience. My content is anchored in the bedrock of core values, and I have come to appreciate that grace and love are wonderful gifts. I work to inspire, encourage and equip leaders with principles for resilience. Principles that enable you to persevere adapt and excel through life’s challenges, change, uncertainty and crisis.
I would be delighted to have you as a companion on this journey. I post weekly at www.davidewhite.ca.
Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.
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