As a leader it is inevitable that we will encounter experiences and situations that produce growing pains. Some of which can come as a blindsided occurrence while others are a set of circumstances that have built up over time. Whether the pain comes from financial stress, staff issues, exponential growth or even personal crisis, each of those experiences presents opportunities for learning. In the book Leadership Pain by Samuel Chand, he provides testimonials from pastors and leaders on their leadership challenges and how they dealt with them. This book hones in the painful experiences of leadership and how they lead to growth. Chand writes “People and organizations grow with the fertilizer of pain. We may not like it. We may resist it. But it’s a principle of the kingdom. To live, something has to die.” When I read that I was like wow that is harsh but within this statement there is some beauty in its truth. The question that rose in my head was “what is it that has to die in order for me to grow further?”
As I read this book, I came from the business perspective of leadership. There are many commonalities that exist between the two. By no means would I say I understand the pressure and privilege of the responsibility of a pastor but I do empathize with many of their leadership challenges. Throughout the book there were many interesting quotes some I agreed with and others not so much. I will briefly share my thoughts on a few of them.
“Success is not measured by what you accomplish but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds. —ORISON SWETT MARDEN”
This quote stood out to me because often times as leaders we have different definitions of what it means to be successful. In the corporate world, we are driven by definitive metrics that we are required to exceed and the pressure to do so can be overwhelming at times. In our pursuit of “success” we forget about the process it took to get there. That to me is even more compelling than the reward at the end. It is through our journey in between where our experiences build character and strength. Endurance is established and our tenacity is unwavering. I appreciate this reminder of the courage it takes to maintain despite the odds.
The difficulty we have in accepting responsibility for our behavior lies in the desire to avoid the pain of the consequences of that behavior. —M. Scott Peck, The Road Not Taken
Ouch! Accountability and responsibility come with the role of leadership. In my context we refer to the avoidance of taking responsibility as “passing the buck” “playing the blame game” or CYA (I will not spell out this acronym LOL). Unfortunately this happens all the time. So much so, that it seems to be praised acceptable behavior to be good at deflecting responsibility for your actions and placing them onto someone else. When I think about accepting responsibility I think two things happen—first you become more self-aware and as a result will pay attention to the signs that indicate this dark behavioral trait is trying to raise its ugly head. However, it doesn’t take away the gross feeling I have on the inside when I mess up (yes I know that is condemnation) but I try not to sit with it for too long. 🙂
Second, it shows servant leadership to those who you are serving. By taking responsibility you show them that no one is perfect and that mistakes due occur; however, when they do happen you must own it and seek out solutions to resolve them. I have found that when I am honest about how my behavior or choice has impacted my team or organization those within tend to rally and are willing to support me in finding a solution.
“Unless you are prepared to give up something valuable, you will never be able to truly change at all, because you’ll be forever in the control of things you can’t give up. – Andy Law, Creative Company”
If I could rewrite this quote I would use the words of Fantasia Barrino in her song “Lose to Win” which says “Sometimes you gotta Lose to Win again”. While she is singing about a relationship, I believe the same applies to giving up things that we value to gain something better down the road. Often times in my life when I am not willing to let go of something it is because I am afraid of the unknown. What if it doesn’t work out? What if it takes years before I see any benefit? These are some of the questions that I ask myself. Fear leads to wanting to control everything as a means to feel safe and comfortable. I believe that this is a test of our faith. Trusting God that what we find value in ,alternatively, He has something better for us. My identity is not in what I value but it is found in Christ. In Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership Gary McIntosh and Samuel Rima discuss the importance of knowing our Identity in Christ. They write “[w]e must come to the point where we recognize that our value is not dependent on our performance, position, titles, achievements, or the power that we wield. Rather, our worth exists independently of anything we have ever done or will do in the future. Without the grace of God that is found only in his son, Jesus Christ, as Isaiah the prophet declared, our best efforts and most altruistic acts are like filthy rags in God’s sight (Isa. 64:6). Everything we might learn about our dark side will be without significant benefit if we fail to find our value in Christ.”
As leaders whether we serve in a church or in the marketplace we must find not find our value in what we do but in who God has created us to be.
 Samuel R. Chand, Leadership pain: the classroom for growth (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2015), 102.
 Ibid, 22.
 Ibid, 72.
 Ibid, 94.
 Gary McIntosh and Samuel D. Rima, Overcoming the dark side of leadership: how to become an effective leader by confronting potential failures (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), Kindle Location 2680