In this Issue
Feature Article: Which Kind of Leader Are You?
Inspirational Women's Garden Club, Wednesday, August 27, 7 pm EST
- Which Kind of Leader Are You?
Wed, Aug 27 at 7 pm EST
Which Kind of Leader Are You?
I recently watched a very inspiring movie with Gil. Throughout the movie, I was reflecting on the different styles of leadership the various adult characters demonstrated in the movie. There were three key "father" figures in the movie: one was a young son's actual father; the second was an uncle of another young boy who had just lost both of his parents in a tragic accident, and his care had been entrusted to this uncle, who had been his father's brother, and his wife. There was a third father figure, an eccentric, middle-aged man named Jim, whom most everyone in the town feared. His experience in the Vietnam War had left him changed, and he remained isolated at his home with his dog, shunning all other social interaction.
The young son who had recently lost his father was struggling in his relationship with his uncle, who was treating him harshly due to unresolved issues with his brother, the young boy's deceased father. The young son reached out to Jim, the town's hermit, because he discovered Jim had been a soapbox derby hero in his younger days, a love which the young boy and his deceased father had shared. Jim initially fended off the young boy's interest, but over time, responded to his desire for help in building his own soapbox car to enter an upcoming race.
The other young boy worked with his father, preparing for the same soapbox derby race. This father was competitive and placed pressure on his son to win, especially during the dry run races with the other kids. This father was building the son's racer himself, rather than allowing his son to do it, or even to help him.
Jim, on the other hand, challenged the other young boy to build his own racer. He reviewed the young boy's designs and told him he could use any of the parts in his junkyard for the car. Yet he never took the freedom away from the young boy to learn on his own by trying things out and making mistakes himself.
As I reflected on the two extremely different leadership styles of these men, I felt inspired to share this story with you and glean the important leadership principles from it. As we reflect on Jim and the father, which kind of leader is more like you?
The father's leadership was performance-oriented, while Jim's allowed the young boy the freedom to learn on his own and make mistakes.
The father throughout the movie was seen working on the son's racer, while the son watched. When the son would offer to help or make a suggestion, the father would say something like, "Let me do it - it needs to be perfect, and you want to win, don't you?" These types of responses deflated the young son's confidence and sent a clear message that the father was in charge, and the young son had nothing to offer in the process.
The father's leadership style created weakness in his son, while Jim's approach created strength.
Throughout the movie, you saw the other young boy working on his car designs, trying new things, going back to Jim throughout for guidance, yet building the car almost completely on his own. When a moment of crisis occurred later during the race, the young boy was able to handle it, as he knew the inner workings of the car through having built it.
The other young boy felt paralyzed in the moment of crisis, because his father had always done the building and work. He didn't have the confidence needed to handle the stress of performance or a crisis when each occurred.
The father's style of leadership fostered dependence in his son and limited his confidence, while Jim's, though it might have seemed initially more stressful for the other young boy, created independence and confidence in himself and the skills he had learned.
Because the father was a perfectionist, he wanted the racer to be built in a certain way. He felt he was the only one who could "do it right." And of course, he could do it faster and maybe better than his son - he was an adult man. But that wasn't the point - the point was that his son needed to learn to build his own race car, and to learn confidence in his own abilities. His father's inability to let go of control and teach his son fostered dependence and prevented the development of his son's much needed self-confidence.
Jim, on the other hand, refused to offer much help at all to the other young boy, especially at the beginning. While the young boy felt some stress initially, trying to figure things out on his own, this approach allowed him the freedom to learn and to make mistakes under Jim's guidance.
The father's style of leadership was about control and winning, while Jim's was about the young boy learning on his own.
Throughout the movie, you saw the father's competitive spirit come out. It was easy to see this race was about him, being in control and winning, rather than about a hobby his son enjoyed and wanted to learn as he experienced it.
Many leaders are wired to win and to be competitive. It's especially important if you're one of these types of leaders that you guard against this in your leadership. If you've been given the privilege of leadership by God, it's about serving those you lead and serving God, not about your own agendas for winning, perfectionism or empire-building. (1 Pet. 5:2; 1 Tim 3:2-3).
The father's style of leadership was "I'll do it (with the obvious inference being because I can do it better), while Jim's style was "you do it" (because this is your goal and dream).
The father was unable to delegate leadership to his son or even to train him in the details of leading. Many leaders struggle with this due to their perfectionism and their own desire for excellence. (Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership, 136). They know they're highly skilled, and they are unable to trust others to do it "less perfectly" in their own learning process.
Jim was able to delegate the building of the car to the other young boy, because after all, it was his goal and his dream. Jim had already had his time in the sun many years earlier. Leaders need to learn to do the same - to give emerging leaders their time to try, to fail, but to also learn in the process. One of the truest tests of a leader is how their organization manages once they are gone. Only those who have been trained to stay behind will be the proof of that leadership.
Keys to Victory along the Journey
The father's communication was stress-producing to his son, while Jim's communication was encouraging (you can do it!)
As you watched the movie, you could see either the tension and stress on each boy's face, or the relief, based on how the adult men communicated with them. The father, even though he loved his son greatly and wanted him to succeed, created great stress for him. It seemed at one point of crisis in the movie that the young son wondered if the father would respond with love to him even when he hadn't "performed" up to his expectations. It was a heartbreaking moment.
As a leader, you'll want to ensure to those you lead that their relationship with you is solid, even if their performance is not always as wonderful as you would want. Particularly in areas of spiritual leadership, the relationship is most important, and the performance is always second. It's important to always keep this perspective in place.
- The father's leadership was performance-oriented, while Jim's allowed the young boy the freedom to learn on his own and make mistakes.
- The father's leadership style created weakness in his son, while Jim's style created strength.
The father's style of leadership fostered dependence in his son and limited his confidence, while Jim's, though it might have seemed initially more stressful for the young boy, created independence and confidence in himself and his learned skills.
Henry Blackaby in his book, Spiritual Leadership, writes:
There are three worthy goals of leadership - leading [others] to spiritual maturity, leading others to lead, and bringing glory to God (pp. 127-144).
As a leader, you can daily choose to stay focused on these leadership priorities, rather than on control, winning or the bottom line.
If you would like to hear more topics like these, please join us for the August "Inspirational Women's Garden Club" event on Wednesday, August 27, at 7 p.m. EST. For more information, contact Suzanne at email@example.com. We'd love to have you join us and bring a friend, too!
August Coaching Special
With enrollment this month in the Inspirational Women's Garden Club, you’ll receive a complimentary 30-minute personal or church coaching consult. Just contact my office at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to help you.
Please let me know what issues you would like to hear about in the next newsletter. I'll do my best to address your concerns! I look forward to speaking with you all next month.
Many prayers and blessings to you all,
Leadership Tips and Relationship Tips are monthly e-zines written and published by Suzanne Martinez, founder of SFM Consulting & Associates, LLC. Our purpose is to help leaders develop healthy leadership cultures and healthy relationships - cultures that promote growth and maximize personal and organizational performance.
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