“Regardless of what you were told at Richmond, your delay was weather related and therefore we will not hand out hotel vouchers, but even if we were going to do so, we have exhausted our vouchers for today.”
What a great announcement to hear over the speaker at 2am.
After waiting in the Richmond terminal for almost 7 hours (click here for more on that), our flight finally left. We arrived at DFW expecting to get some relief, only to hear the announcement, and so the adventure began.
To say our return home from vacation was a memorable experience is an understatement. We ended up renting the only vehicle available at any of the rental counters that were open at 3am–a 12 passenger van. The movie Home Alone flashed through my head at one point, thinking of John Candy and his polka band riding in the back of a moving van. We were not far away from that, minus the accordion.
Honestly, I do not know what to add about leadership from my experience Monday night/Tuesday morning, other than to say your attitude makes the difference. I am very grateful my wife and daughters (and myself) were able to roll with the punches on everything that went wrong without getting angry. Remaining calm disarmed what could have been a very explosive situation.
So, mind your response. How you respond in the moment will determine how you handle the situation. Remain calm and navigate the choppy waters, regardless of how big the waves may seem.
Currently, I’m sitting in an airport terminal in Richmond, Virginia. A combination of mechanical issues, weather, and vacation chaos has culminated in a delayed flight (sitting at 3+ hour delay so far, and that doesn’t count the fact we were at the airport early!).
Some things are out of our control. Weather, mechanical failure, and attitudes of those around us are all outside of our control.
What we do control is the attitude we use to respond.
I do not know if I am at ease because its the end of my vacation (that has been wonderful), or if I just really enjoy flying so waiting a few extra hours in a terminal with my family seems quite bearable. But I decide how I respond.
The same is true for the clerks working the desk here at gate A7. The people who are paid to handle situations when storms move in two places hundreds of miles from each other appear to have the proper attitudes. No one is grateful for the delay, especially not the girl stuck in the terminal store with a sideways screen, but most people seem to be managing the unfortunateness.
So, let me ask you this: how are you handling the unfortunateness in your life? Let’s narrow down a little: how are you handling the unfortunateness in your leadership?
What’s your attitude as your decisions come under scrutiny, or as those you lead start to show signs of unrest?
What’s your attitude when those you lead completely ignore the direction you are trying to move?
What’s your attitude when you face dilemmas you have never faced before?
What’s your attitude as you peer the future directly in the eyes, not sure if you should jump or stand your ground?
Take some time today to put things in perspective. You will face leadership struggles. You will face leadership failures. You will face leadership storms. But the way you respond, that’s up to you.
As for me, here’s hoping I get to board my flight in the next few hours.
Over the course of the summer I was able to sit down with student leaders from different churches and help them grow in their concept of what leadership looks like. One week, over our time together, we had two people share a similar message: leaders make mistakes.
Today, I want you to hear the same message: Leaders make mistakes. You will make mistakes.
The challenge in leadership is not avoiding mistakes, but what we do when we realize we have made a mistake. Here are three steps to help your mistakes lead you to growth.
For some of us, this may be the most challenging step. Maybe the mistake you made grew more out of a reaction to a decision you made or something you said. Maybe your mistake was a planning mistake, or it had something to do with a choice you made along the way.
No matter what, until you realize you made a mistake, you cannot move forward and learn from it. This is where key voices play an integral role. Having people around you whom you can trust to say what they think you may not want to hear makes all the difference in the world.
Years ago, I served a church and enjoyed a strong relationship with my pastor at the time. We had an important meeting with another church leader one afternoon, and it ended poorly. Later that day he and I came together and I was able to share my opinion on where the meeting went south. Because of the relationship we had, we were able to work through the situation and move forward.
If you want to grow as a leader, please understand you are not infallible. You will make mistakes. What’s worse is that sometimes the people around you will know you made a mistake long before you know it. But, once you realize a mistake has been made, what you do next is paramount.
When you make a mistake, never be afraid to admit it. I would advise against wearing your mistake as a badge of honor, but also don’t treat it like a toothache–if I ignore it long enough, it’ll go away or I’ll die.
When someone in authority over me makes a mistake and admits it, more often than not I respond with a higher level of respect for them. I had a high school basketball coach who tried to get us ready for a game by showing us the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan. He wanted us to know we were only playing a game, and the game should be fun, but the desired outcome is not what he hoped. Instead, we played poorly. Later, when reminiscing about his decision, he admitted to me he made the wrong choice in trying to motivate us that way, and I respected him for his honesty.
Own your mistake. Take responsibility for it. Apologize when necessary. But most importantly, once you own your mistake…
Very few people enjoy stubbing their toe on the same support beam in the same spot of their house. They either move into a new house or change how they walk around. Actually, can I say no one enjoys stubbing their toe?
Now we get into the nitty gritty of leadership. The leader who makes the same mistake over and over eventually drives away the people he or she is leading. After all, very few people enjoy following someone who is unwilling to learn or to grow.
If you, however, can learn from your mistakes, you become someone who adds value to the lives around you. Then, over time, you slowly begin to make fewer and fewer mistakes. But it does take time, and lots of it.
The bottom line is this: if you want to grow as a leader, you have to learn from your mistakes. So, are you learning from your mistakes? Are you making changes? Or are you repeating the same action over and over and hoping something (or someone else) changes in the process? Learn from your mistakes and see what happens.
What are you good at? I mean, what are you really good at? What is something you enjoy doing? What comes naturally to you that other people have to struggle to understand?
I enjoy running sound at my church. I may not be really good at the nuts and bolts, ironing out frequencies, but I understand the concepts of running sound.
The same goes for running presentation software on the computer. I know how the programs work, am willing to learn what I do not know, and enjoy doing it.
At camp last week, however, I had a moment. One of my roles at camp was to oversee the sound booth, but we took a different approach. This year, instead of the person in charge of the sound booth doing both parts, I oversaw students who took the responsibilities.
That means, every time we gathered for a service, two high school students were making everything happen.
One student, in charge of the sound board, turned mics on and off, adjusted levels, and made sure what was coming out of the speakers was exactly what needed to be coming out of the speakers.
The other student, in charge of the computer, displayed the lyrics for songs, played videos, and controlled the screen games.
These may not sound like impressive roles, but there are plenty of people who would not know how to do them.
The struggle for me, however, was letting go. In my role overseeing them, it was tempting to step in and take a more active role, but I did not. I kept reminding myself they will never grow if I do everything for them. This does not mean I did not correct or direct. I let them feel the freedom to make choices and I tried to help them understand the reasoning behind things I would do differently.
Now, these two teenagers have experience, and subsequently confidence, because of the time they spent in the sound booth. Next time around, they will be even more willing and equipped.
Leadership means learning to let go. As I stepped back and let these kids (who serve in these roles at their churches already) serve, they grow because of it. As a result, I grow as well.
As I said at the beginning, I enjoy doing those things. But if I want my leadership influence to grow, I have to learn to let go and let others make the most of opportunities. Ultimately, three people grew because of what happened in the sound booth last week, and that’s a win for leadership.
Today, let’s get back to basics: expanding your leadership influence.
Would you care to hear a secret? The people you lead can probably identify your ruts long before you can.
Some ruts are secrets, but some are not.
Routines can serve to give us energy, but ruts drain us. When we are drained, people around us notice. When we lose focus, people around us notice.
Sure, you can fool some people, but the ones who know you can spot the struggle.
So, let me ask you: what would the people around you identify as a rut you’re currently fighting through? Seriously think about it.
Now, ask yourself: is this truly a rut in my leadership?
A while back I wrote about the redundancy of leadership. The more I think about it, the more I realize that redundancy does not bother me the way it bothers other people. I do not mind the mundane nature of some tasks. In fact, I find energy in the redundancy. But that’s a post for another day.
The danger of embracing redundancy is simple: redundancy can dig a rut, too.
In my own leadership, there are areas where the redundancy of leadership has actually become a rut. Maybe the same is true for you?
So, what your next step? Identify the rut and choose a course of action–stick it through and wait for the terrain to change, or steer hard to one side and see what breaks loose.
Either one may not work the way you expect, but at least now you know you’re in a rut.
Lead well today.