I started working at Church on the Move right out of high school 18 years ago (Dear God, has it been that long?). My dad, being the wise father and leader that he was, started me out at the bottom, and I mean the very bottom. In fact, my first job was to lay sod all around our newly-completed church building. I hated it. I only made minimum wage, but I stuck with it. Over the next several years I bounced around a few different departments of our church learning, working, and growing. And after several years I found myself in my first leadership role.
Initially, I was really excited to lead. I mean, who wouldn’t be right? No more annoying boss. No more doing jobs you don’t want to do because you’re the one calling the shots. You really are the man! But I soon found out that leading wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, because there’s a big difference between “working” and “leading”.
So, over the next few years I went to work on my leadership skills and I learned a few things?some on purpose and some by accident?but all of them helpful. I’ll share three of them here.[quote]There’s a big difference between “working” and “leading”.[/quote]
1. The right ones, not everyone
If you think of the most successful leaders, innovators, and world-changers in history?people like Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Junior, Saint Paul, and Jesus Christ himself?you’ll find they weren’t able to unite everyone around their cause. Each of them had their detractors. In fact, someone they weren?t able to win over to their point of view assassinated each one of them. Think about that for a second.
We tend to think of great leadership as the ability to bring everyone together, but that simply isn’t the case. To take it a step further, it’s not even possible. Great leadership, therefore, isn’t about bringing everyone together. It’s about bringing the right ones together. A good leader has a conviction about what he or she must do and they do not cave simply because of the dissension of a few.[quote]Great leadership isn’t about bringing everyone together. It’s about bringing the?right?ones together.[/quote]
To be honest, it was a hard transition going from being “just one of the guys” to being “the boss”. It puts a weird strain on some of your relationships and it’s uncomfortable. It’s a transition that many aren’t willing or able to make. Like a son learning to become a father, or a daughter learning to become a mother, it’s not always the easy. But it’s necessary if you want to become a leader.
2. The gift of direction
One of the greatest gifts you can give to your team as a leader is the gift of direction. You may think you’re doing them a favor by letting them dictate their own direction, but you aren?t. It?s frustrating to work for someone who doesn’t know what he or she wants. Believe it or not, people want direction and definition, and when they don?t have it they?ll create it for themselves every time. Your video team will make videos they like. Your musicians will pick songs they like. Your designers will create designs they like and so on and so on.
Because each member of the team lacks clear vision, everyone starts to pull in their own direction. They run wild (I think that?s a verse somewhere). They craft ideas that match their goals, and when that happens you inevitably have power struggles and hurt feelings.
At Church on the Move, we don?t have five ideas of what the weekend service is going to look like. We have one idea. Mine.[quote]We don?t have five ideas of what the weekend service is going to look like. We have one idea. Mine.[/quote]
I know that sounds egotistical and creatively stifling. But in reality it?s liberating, because each member of the team is free to create within the boundaries that I?ve provided instead of trying incessantly to set those boundaries for themselves and fighting with others who see it differently.
Remember, the goal isn’t to become a dictator, the goal is lead your team?whoever they may be?from here (where we are now) to there (where we need to be) If the leader doesn’t know where “there” is, who does?
Orson Welles, the great filmmaker, said it best when he said that “the absence of limitations is the enemy of art.”
3. Tell me why
Did your parents ever tell you that you couldn?t do something you really wanted to do? Then when you pressed them for a reason, they would simply tell you, ?Because I said so.? How frustrating is that?
From childhood to adulthood, it?s just in our nature to want to understand why. We?re hardwired that way. So when we encounter a ?no? without a why it?s really frustrating.[quote]If I can?t explain to myself why I don?t like something, do I really deserve to criticize it to others?[/quote]
One thing I learned never to do as a creative leader is to offer arbitrary criticism. Whether I?m speaking to my superiors or to my team, I?ll never say, “I hate it,” and just walk away. If you respect the people you work with?and you should?then they deserve to know the reasoning behind your decisions and feedback. After all, if I can?t explain to myself why I don?t like something, do I really deserve to criticize it to others?
Taking the time to understand why you don?t like that font, or why your camera shots look so pathetic, or why that song sounds like garbage not only sharpens your own skills (and it will, big time!) but it also helps your team to understand your point of view. Then that helps them see that your criticism is not aimed at them personally, but at their ideas. This is a big difference.
We have to learn to value our team and be ruthless with our ideas. Understanding that I can value you as a person and not like your ideas may be a huge culture shift for your team, but it’s worth it. It?ll create resiliency to critique, not a sensitivity to it.