Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Building a Better... Motivation (Part 2)

In last week's blog post, I began to examine my motivations for being a leader. Three motivations stood out to me, obligation, pride, and calling. This week, I'm going to take a step back, and find out what other leaders in the past and present have said should be a leader's motivation. Jesus, in the book of Matthew, warned his disciples against what he called "false prophets". He warned them with the example of a tree, saying that "every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit". (Mat 7:17) I think the same applies to leaders. "Good trees", that is, good foundations, will produce "good fruit", or good leadership. The same is true with bad foundations. So, lets first look at the foundations, and judge them based on what fruit they produce.

My first motivation that I examined was obligation. Oddly enough, there is not much material on leading because of obligation. Perhaps it is because obligation doesn't have the fire to sustain anyone in the long-term. Likewise, it does not instill a passion or love for the work you are doing. An episode of "Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide" illustrates this well. The main character, Ned, had a hard time saying 'no', and ended up taking responsibility for many different projects around the school. Eventually, he upset everyone, and burned himself out. Although it was only a kid's show, it understood what obligation does to leaders. Eventually, leading solely on obligation will lead to burn out.

My second motivation was pride. I guessed last week that this was not the right motivation for leading, and I believe I was correct. Both secular and sacred writers have agreed that pride is destructive. The often quoted proverb: "Pride comes before the fall" spells out the inherent danger of pride. Even modern business agrees. Author Jim Collins discusses why great leaders fail in an article in Businessweek, A Primer on the Warning Signs. He explains the process of a company's collapse, and the root cause of it. The bad foundation for Collins is something he calls "hubris" (Collins). Hubris is "exaggerated pride or self-confidence"(Merriam-Webster). This hubris is the foundation for destruction for both secular and spiritual leaders. Pride is a universally bad tree for leaders.

The third motivation last week was calling. Calling seems to be a word thrown around in Christian circles a great deal. Most pastors will say they were "called" to the ministry. Calling to most people means a emotional excitement or passion for a topic. This was similar to my experience with a "calling". Yet, when I take a look at how great church leaders were called, it was a command, not a emotional experience. An example of this would be the call of the apostle Peter. Jesus commanded him to be a pastor, and then explained the horrible things that would happen to him, and then says "Follow Me" (John 21:15-19). Quite an radical way to recruit someone to leadership! There are then, two callings. An emotional calling, and a command calling.

Which calling is a good tree, and which is a bad one? An emotional calling is by all appearances, a good tree. Emotionally called people love what they do. Their vision, commitment, and passion are likely to fuel successful leadership. However, much like young love, passion is fleeting. The command calling is more like a marriage, a commitment to "follow" through the good and bad. The command call is a "good tree". It takes work, commitment, and is tougher than the emotional call. Nevertheless, this call produces good leadership. 

My personal application this week is to take an inventory of my current motivations for the various things I lead, and see if I have 'good trees', or 'bad trees'.

(1) Collins, Jim. "How the Mighty Fall." N.p., May 2009. Web. 30 Jan. 2013.
(2) Merriam-Webster. "Hubris"  Merriam-Webster, 2013. Web. 30 Jan. 2013.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Building a Better... Motivation (Part 1)

As I embark on this journey towards being a better leader, I need to start at the base. Gordon MacDonald in his book "Building Below the Waterline" shares the story of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge, from the perspective of the onlooker, looked like it went up over night. In fact, the majority of the building took place long before that, under the surface of the water. MacDonald likens this to leadership. The most important part of a leader's life according to MacDonald is that which is 'below the surface'; namely, the soul.

So, I am going to start to examine my foundations.The first foundation to be examined is motivation. Why do I want to be a leader? Then, why should I be a leader? For this post, I'll examine my personal motivation, and next time I'll look what my motivations should be. This is for me, and I presume others, a painful subject. When I look into my past, I see three principal reasons that I would lead things. The first is often because of obligation. Too often I find myself leading things because no one else is. I have been taught many if you see a need, do what you can to help. Because of this, I have taken over classes, led public worship, and then run myself ragged.

The second reason I have led things in the past is out of pride or self-esteem issue. It's sad to admit, but I have taken on some responsibilities because I felt I deserved to be in charge. One such time happened when on a mission trip to Baja, Mexico. We had a free day to go into the nearby town and shop in the market. We were broken up into small groups to tackle the market place. While there was no 'formal' leader, one of the women in the group took charge and directed us. After two hours of endless shopping, (which I disliked), large crowds, (which I also disliked), and having no say in where we went (Really disliked that); I had enough of it. I felt that I deserved to take charge, and that everyone should just do my will. I haven't examined what a leader's motivations ought to be, but I can venture a guess that pride is not an adequate foundation for leadership.

Finally, the third reason that I've led in the past was out of a sense of calling. I went on my first missions trip when I was only 15, and when I came back, I was so excited about who God was, and how much He wanted people to know Him. A few months later I convinced my youth pastor to let me lead a small guy's bible study. I led, not out of obligation, or pride, but rather, love. Love for God, and the people God loves. Is that the right motivation for leadership? The question will be answered next time. 

MacDonald, Gordon. Building Below The Waterline. Peabody, Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, 2011. Print.

Building a Better... Introduction

"You keep that attitude up, you'll be a leader here next semester!" This was said to me only a few weeks ago at a small class I attend outside of NOVA. As odd as it sounds, this is not a rare occurrence in my life. Shakespeare once said that some are born in greatness, others achieve greatness, while others have greatness thrust upon them. I believe it is the same of leadership. Some people are born leaders, some try to be leaders, and other just end up leading. I am not too sure which I am. My name is Colin Watson. I'm a student at NOVA Woodbridge. I'm also a leader. From leading an acting troupe in high school, leading a bible study on monday nights, and whenever there is a need for one. I started 'leading' when I was only six or seven years old. I lead my siblings in the backyard where we played games. When I was eleven, I directed a small play for my church. I spend much of my time leading, and thinking about leadership.

Being given leadership does not mean that I know what I'm doing. More often than not, I learn by trial and error, and more error. I am by no means an expert on leadership. This is painfully obvious in retrospect. The bible study I lead meets from house to house, sharing the load of having a bunch of loud and crazy teens at their house. For a long time, I took no measure to solidify where we were meeting. This lead to panicked phone calls an hour or two before the meeting, asking where we were meeting. Now I know better and I have a planned schedule of the house we're meeting at. Despite leading often, I am still a novice in understanding what it entails. This blog is an experiment; looking at leadership as a whole, analyze it bit by bit, and then putting it all together again.

I am interested to learn about what leadership means in the bigger picture, and then apply it to the short term. Why should one become a leader? What are the qualities of a good leader? When is it time to let go of leadership? What is the goal of leadership? I don't intend to have an answer for all these questions. I want myself and others to think about what it means to lead. Beyond that, I want to take it a step further. Talking about leadership is not as useful unless I apply to my own life. So, as part of this experiment, I will find personal application and goals for myself, and attempt to become a better leader. Will it work? Stay tuned to find out.