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.


  1. I appreciate how you've used some great, specific details to let us into your life and to know your relationship both with your faith and leadership. Great examples here! I don't think you're alone in that you've been in situations in which you've found your group rudderless. So you jump in to lead. I wonder: are you an oldest or only child? I only ask because many psychologists suggest that birth order can have an effect on whether a person has the innate knack to "step it up." Check out this link:

    One note: when you say "lead," I think you mean "led" in a few places.

    1. I am indeed the oldest child. I did mix up those two, oops. Thanks for bringing that up!

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