Tuesday, July 24, 2007
The Pain of Leadership
Before sending in Picket's Brigade at Gettysburg, Robert E. Lee is reported to have said to General Longstreet, "The greatest pain is to order the death of what you love the most - but we do our duty, sir. We do our duty." There is great pain in leading effectively. I want to repost something Wade Hodges put up some time ago on tolerating pain. So, let me know what you think.
In order to be an effective leader you have to be able to tolerate pain. Your own pain as well as the pain of others. Sometimes others will inflict pain upon you. You must absorb and carry it forward in order to lead. Sometimes you will be called upon to inflict pain on others for their own good or for the good of the organization you lead. If you don’t think leaders inflict pain, then go make a decision and see if anyone yelps. Sometimes you will inflict pain upon yourself when you inflict pain on others because you care so much about those whom you are leading. Without a doubt, one of the hardest things to do as a leader is to watch people we love squirm with emotional pain because of a position we’ve taken. Most of us end up caving sooner or later and we sheepishly reverse our position or change our direction in order to dull the pain and keep the peace.
The reason most churches within my sphere of awareness are struggling to move forward in any kind of discernible way is because their leadership is spending all their time and energy trying to avoid pain. They think the absence of pain is a sign of good leadership. Making sure no one gets hurt may be a win for a bank robber (put your hands in the air and do what you’re told and no one gets hurt), but it’s a terrible way of judging how well we’re doing as leaders. All pain avoidance does is delay the inevitable, which is . . . pain.
Leaders who try to avoid pain will someday be confronted with the worst pain of all, the awareness that the end result of their perpetual pain avoidance is the collapse of the organization they were supposed to be leading. Are you called to lead? If so, and if you’re not ready to experience and tolerate some pain, then please say no to the call. Whatever organization you’re being called to lead will be better off without you in leadership. If you’re ready to deal with some pain, then step up and buckle in, because it’s gonna hurt.