Are You a Leader?
This is the third in a series of articles about community building. (See the first two articles here!) Today we’re talking about leadership; collaborative, dynamic, shared leadership, the source of power in a community. Settle in and share your thoughts!
It was 1984 and Pope John Paul II was coming to town. My mother and I joined the volunteers to prepare the huge Papal site for his visit. We were standing in the press tent set up in an open field with the wind blowing in through the tent flaps, waiting for instructions. The woman in charge handed us each a thick stack of papers. These were to make up the seventy-five press kits. In the tent were long tables like the ones you see in a church hall. She said we needed to make seventy-five piles, and then each of the five of us would place the papers from our stacks onto those piles.
My mother and I looked at each other. I knew she was thinking what I was thinking; why not make five piles and draw from those five piles seventy-five times?
One of us made this suggestion. The woman graciously accepted it and changed the plan. We made five neat stacks; assembled seventy-five press kits without losing a single sheet and everything went well.
She was willing to share the leadership. The one best qualified to lead in any situation will be the one chosen to lead. No one has all the skills called for in all areas. Each of us has skills in different areas. Doesn’t it make sense to let the best-qualified leader lead? A community is a group of all leaders.
The best leaders know how to share the reins. A community is not a hierarchy; it’s not an organization with some people at the top and others cascading beneath them at different levels. It’s more like a group around a campfire, sharing the pipe of wisdom and discernment. In a community, the members don’t struggle for a position of power. Instead, they come to recognize the best leader in each situation.
I saw the merits of stepping back so many times here in conversations on the porch when I didn’t know how to respond to something someone said. I learned to wait, and someone else would step forward and supply the perfect answer. After a time, I knew that I could relax, confident that this would happen: We were becoming a group of many leaders.
What a relief that is! Not only is this the gift of knowing you don’t always have to be the one in the lead, but also it’s an awareness that the best answers are available, and that someone will supply them.
It’s a comfort to know we’re not alone. We’re all in this together.
Have you ever had to follow the leadership of someone who knew less about a situation than you did? Have you ever known a leader who spent more time behind the scenes than on the stage, because he or she had empowered the members to step forth with their ideas and suggestions? Have you ever been a part of a group where everyone was equally respected and admired for the gifts they brought to the table?