Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Mid-life Opportunity

Well, this year I’ll officially be “Middle-Aged”. That’s being kind – I'm not just entering the middle third of life, but my age is now one-half of my life expectancy. (Thankfully, that expectancy is up with recent changes in diet and exercise, heck one website says my ‘Virtual Age’ is only 30! :)

Time for a crisis? No – more like an opportunity (which is defined as: “an appropriate or favorable time”). I don’t like to wait until milestone birthdays to start thinking about how I’m getting older, but like to take a look at my life in advance of the big day, and take some action that goes against the flow of getting older. This year has been no exception, and I’ve been taking stock of my life. I honestly feel like things have never been better. I have a wonderful wife, four fantastic kids, I’m in the best shape I’ve been in over the last couple of decades, I love my work, and feel like I’m using my gifts well in ministry. But… what’s next?

Over the course of the last few months I’ve been on a team looking at strategic planning for our church, which has really helped to clarify what we need to do and what we need to focus on over the next couple of years. One key priority is leadership development. In the course of researching and studying leadership and developing leaders, I’ve come to find myself falling quite short of where I would like to be. In particular, I’m really not as good a leader as I thought. I have an attitude of “get ‘er done” and can take charge of a project just fine, I’m comfortable in leading, speaking, willing to step up to challenges. But the more I think about it, I’ve been far more of a ‘doer’ than a leader. I’m fairly good at meeting goals or leading a task, but where I fall way short is in developing other leaders. In the terms of Jim Collins (Good to Great), I’m a level 3 leader. That’s someone who can lead a team of followers and get something done, but a level four leader is one who effect­ively develops other people into leaders. (A level 5 leader can do that for a whole organization, and create a culture of leadership development that really allows greatness to emerge.) So what’s so bad about that?

A level 3 leader has limited impact. He or she adds value to a team, or an organization, but without further development really isn’t capable of seeing “multiplication”. Whether in business or in ministry, if you’re “doing” and not intentionally developing other leaders capable of doing what you can do, independently, all you have is the power of one. That’s the problem – I don’t want to have an incremental impact on my family, my community, on God’s kingdom – I want to be a significant part of God doing great things.

In the first half of my life I’ve become as successful as I possibly can be at being a doer… For the next half, I want to become the leader God has shaped me to be, pouring myself into the lives of others, encouraging and equipping them to be the very best they can be, and help develop others into servant leaders, faithful and able to teach others. I’m hearing the call of Paul in II Timothy 2:2. In volleyball, though I play hard, I play to have fun. In my life, and in my ministry, I want to compete to win, and hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

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