Monday, December 05, 2005

Wanting your Leader to Fail

Have you ever wanted your leader to fail? This admission was shared with me over dinner Friday night, as a strong, up-and-coming second chair leader sat there frustrated, confused, and uncertain as to what he should do! He said, "Some days, I just wish he would fail. I know that is my flesh, or pride, or whatever, but his incompetency and lack of initiative are keeping us from going anywhere. . . I wish he would fail so that I could get his job and show everyone how it is done!"

Pretty intense! Kind of hard to step around this one, huh? But, isn't he like us all who have been wired to lead from the second chair? In some ways, haven't we all wanted to be the leader who comes to the rescue after our leader fails miserably? Maybe your pride hasn't been that awful, but what about the times that you have hoped that your first chair leader will at least recognize their need for you to bail them out of a situation?

If you were in this guys shoes, as a strong second chair leader of a para-church organization, but were frustrated with the regional guy's leadership, what would you do? Would you bail? Would you confront? How should you handle it?

Maybe you are just like this guy and you too feel frustrated for one reason or another with your first chair. How should you handle it? What next steps should you be taking for your own career path? Which way would you go?


DivaD said...

I guess I've never thought about wanting him to "fail". I do, however, get frustrated often with - what I perceive to be - lack of progress, forward-thinking, boldness in decision making...
It's often very difficult to know the answer to something, have a clear picture of what will solve a problem or issue, and have seemingly have to "wait" until it's figured out.
What do I do? Well, thankfully, the relationship is such that I can - the majority of the time - say "what are you waiting for?" And, it is such that, most of the time when my boss/pastor/first-chair gets bogged down, or is struggling with a decision or solution, he'll come and ask my opinion and/or advice... and we'll work through solutions together.
I am very thankful that God has put me in a place where I am able to speak freely, and truthfully, without negative repercussions - and he is free to do the same with me. We both recognize that, although both leaders, there are definitely areas where he is stronger (teaching and casting vision for instance), and areas where I am stronger (developing systems, training leaders, administrative functions, etc). We're different enough, and yet equally passionate about the vision of the church, that we work very well together... like iron sharpens iron.
Do we disagree? Very vehemently at times. And in those times, once we've talked it out and heard one another, he'll make a decision and I'll support it 100%. And the times that it doesn't work out, NEVER say "I told you so".

I guess the bottom line is, if you ultimately find that you can't respect your leader (been THERE as well), and can't follow his lead because you don't feel that he is strong enough to lead, you've got a decision to make. Can you lead "up" and help him grown stronger as a leader - patiently speaking truth, supporting him/her, praying for him/her, challenging him/her to think, act, and lead differently all in a spirit of love and humility? If not, it may be time to go.

Dave Steinbeck said...

What are steps you've taken to build such an authentic relationship? I often can agree with some of these frustrations, but sometimes truth can be spoken, and other times we 'dance.' :) It seems I can easily build authenticity with so many others, but in this one relationship it is tough. Any practical steps you can offer or suggest would be awesome! God bless - Dave

Roger Patterson said...

David - a lot of times our perspective in the second chair colors our perspective on what is right. In our book I ask the question, would you rather be right or right? A lot of times, our perspective of truth is our perspective from the second chair becuase we can't see what the first chair sees or feels. Thus, we form our conclusion. I have found in my expreience that I am able to go in to my first chair and ask him about a certain situation. I ask, "What do you see here?" Often times, his perspective and pain funnel are things I hadn't even thought about. Sometimes, I then ask for permission to let him know what I see, or he asks me, "Roger, what do you think?" This allows me to speak openly about the situation and give my perspective. This is a dance, but I am willing to dance because I go in with two assumptions. First, I don't have all of the information and I don't see it from his perspective. Second, he wins. The second assumption keeps me humble, because he is the one in charge and because he knows I am willing to let him win, he is willing to listen to me. The key thing is that we both have the same heart--that we long to see our church thrive as God intended for it to thrive.

So, ask yourself, am I so committed to my perspective of the truth that I can't hear his? Does he know this about me, thus he is unwilling to hear from me?

Also, in our book, we note that it took Hybels and Hawkins 5 years to get on the same page where their hearts were fully aligned. This takes time. Barry and I have been serving together for 8 years and thus, we are now more aligned than ever. It does take time.

Clayton Bell said...

I think that you're so right about the time that it takes, and in this microwave society we don't want to wait around from something to develop over time. I forget when I'm in discussion with my senior pastor how little relationship and time we've actually spend with each other. Most of the time, in my youthful zeal, I'm more concerned about being right than being in right relationship, so I've definatly thought "Well, I know this isn't going to work, but I'll let him do it so that he can see that I was right". Obviously, that's not the right attitude to take, and I've been challenged and comforted by this aspect in the book. So many things in here are things I know and have been told about how to act, but they never come from someone in this position, so it's so easy to justify my feelings in my mind and not take their advice. Reading this book and hearing from people who've been there, I have a greater trust of that challenge, rebuke, and encouragement. I know for certain that I'm where God wants me to be, and I know the same thing about my senior pastor. Now it's my responsibility to be and do everything I can to honor God and my leader, and not be concerned with how he's changing, or how much he's listening or ignoring me.

Roger Patterson said...

Clayton, thanks for the encouraging words about the book. I trust that it will continue to be a resource that is useful to you.

I wonder how much the church can be impacted, if, in just this one area of supporting our senior leader and assisting him as we have been called, we would serve with right heart attitudes. I can't help but think that the impact is exponential.

Thanks for being so transparent about your desire to do what you can do.

Hey, I also saw your blog. Great stuff! How did you get that video on there.

For those of you reading this and who want to see Clayton's blog, just click on his username at the end of his post. He has some cool stuff to look at.