Developing student leaders is a tricky subject. Today, I thought I’d re-share a post I published previously on Redefining Leadership Potential.
Here’s a snippet of it:
I treat teenagers as though they are capable of taking a leadership role, regardless of their age. Why? Because, they are capable of leadership regardless of age.
There is so much to develop in this discussion, but we can leave it at this post for today. Click over and give it a quick read.
My dad grew up 70 miles from where his operation is centered today and still has some land there. When I was growing up and when I moved back to work on the farm for a few years, we would spend a few days each month going back and forth to “the ranch” to take care of cattle and other things.
The things about owning lands in two different locations, separated by 70 miles, is sometimes you need something at Point A to be at Point B. This could be anything from a tool or part, to a tractor or herd of cattle. So, moving things across the 70 miles was simply a part of the operation.
But throughout all my life, I only had to move “the disc” one time. Now, it’s difficult to describe “the disc” to someone who doesn’t understand the world of farm implements, so I’ll over-simplify it: a disc was something we pulled behind a tractor to plow the ground. A disc is not a plow because it’s a disc, although it does the same thing as a plow, it just uses a different approach. Simple enough, right?
Our lesson today isn’t about the difference, but about one key part of the disc we had to move: when raised and ready to haul, the disc had three wheels side by side by side, which means one wheel was sandwiched between the other two.
In the field, behind a tractor, this was not a problem. But a tractor drives about 5-7 mph, so the wheels never heat up too much, and even if you need to change the wheel, you have the aid of the tractor.
On the highway, behind a pickup traveling somewhere between 55 and 65 mph, this sandwich became a problem.
The one time I had to move “the disc”, you can probably guess what happened–the wheel bearing on the middle wheel went out and needed to be replaced before we finished the trip.
Working on that wheel was one of the worst, most frustrating, and entirely exhausting tasks I had to do in my time back on the farm. Thankfully, I had someone else there to help.
Later, I made a comment to my dad about how frustrating that was and his response took me by surprise: “Yeah, but it’s just kind of a rite of passage.”
You see, he knew moving the disc would probably result in a 2 hour stay at the truck stop trying to fix it. He accepted it as part of life. It wasn’t neglect on our part. It wasn’t foolishness. It wasn’t stupidity. It was natural.
In your leadership, there’s something you’re facing (or have faced) that feels like changing that wheel bearing. You feel frustrated, angry, exhausted, and worn out as a result of it. The reality–you’ll never move forward without doing the hard work that needs to be done.
So today, this week, this month, or this year, know the struggle you’re encountering is something you need to work through, and once you get to the other side you will look back and say “there was no other way.”
Make the most of the time you have today.
I have remarkably soft hands. Thankfully, most people don’t point this out on handshakes. But for some reason, I don’t have rough, cracked hands.
Part of that may be when I worked on the farm I preferred to wear gloves when possible. I hate having my hands covered in filth. It’s hard to explain. I wouldn’t say it’s a phobia or that it encroaches into the realm of OCD, but I was diligent in protecting my hands.
Have you ever tried to change the wheel bearing on a farm implement? Have you ever heard the term “grease monkey”? There’s a connection between the two. Changing a wheel bearing means one end result–grease gets everywhere.
One summer, my boss (okay, my dad) was literally out of the country, and we had a wheel bearing that needed to be changed. I knew how to change the bearing, but I hadn’t actually changed one before. So guess what? I got to have a great experience culminating in my being filthy. The thing about wheel grease is that it gets everywhere, and you have to use quite a bit to do the job correctly.
As uncomfortable as it was to get dirty and filthy that day, the reality was the job needed to get done, and I was the one to do it.
Leadership is the same. There are undoubtedly leadership tasks that strike fear deep inside of you. Maybe you’ve been able to get by all this time without having to face that uncomfortable moment.
I have bad news for you: your day is coming. Before you know it, you are going to have to face that tough situation head on and get your hands filthy.
Your approach, however, determines your outcome. I could have moaned and complained all day about having to change that wheel bearing, but the job went much smoother when I just accepted the job and did it.
Whatever it is that you’re avoiding–a conversation, a situation, a person, a task–you get to choose your approach. Keep avoiding it and fearing it, and the monster grows. Face it head on and you never know what might happen. You may get your hands dirty and be excited about it.
I’m not as young as I used to be. Isn’t that the motto of every adult?
Sunday night I played pickup basketball for the first time in a while (I don’t remember the last time I played, honestly). And guess what? I was tired and sore afterwards.
I live a decently active lifestyle. I exercise daily, can get out and run a mile or two at a comfortable pace without walk breaks, but I’m pretty convinced there’s nothing that can physically prep you for basketball sore.
In reality, any type of exercise targets a unique collection of muscles. Running requires a different combination than cycling. Cycling requires a different combination than rowing or HIIT. Seems obvious, right?
Leadership is the same way. If you want to grow in your leadership influence (and I’m hoping that’s why you’re here), then you have to exercise your influence muscles.
Put another way: if you want to become a better leader, you have to practice leading.
This concept was very difficult for me as a 19 year old. I wanted to serve in a ministry role, but the reality was my experience in actually leading was very limited. I didn’t see it at the time, but I do now.
The good news is while we are waiting to lead in the way we’ve always dreamed of leading, we get to practice leading in the way we need to lead in the moment. And while we practice leading now, we may just realize the way we’ve always dreamed of leading isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, or even how we’ve been called to lead.
Today, you’re faced with a decision. Are you going to take the necessary steps to lead? Very few people experience long term leadership success by accident–it’s a conscious decision. What situation facing you needs attention? What conversation needs to take place? Who needs an opportunity to step up? Who needs an opportunity to step down? What relationship needs strengthening today?
Are you willing to take the necessary steps today to exercise your leadership muscles in an effort to be a better leader tomorrow? I hope you are, and I’m glad we’re walking this adventure together!
I mentioned this last week, and still don’t think I’m fully ready for this, but here goes.
My father-in-law passed away on January 29. It was, for us, a long process, but in reality, a pretty quick progression. He was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in the esophagus and stomach, and passed away (according to my records) 365 days later.
At the memorial, he wanted an open mic. The morning of the service my wife asked me if I was going to share. Honestly, I had not considered sharing before that point. I thought about it, but really did not know what to say if I were to share.
The people who did share did an incredible job highlighting who he was as a man, father, brother, uncle, and friend. I could not have added anything to the service to make it better.
But after the open mic, it hit me. And since I blog and have a captive audience (you), I hope you will indulge me this morning.
With the passing of my father-in-law, I lost an advocate. Every birthday card he gave me was addressed to “No. 4 Son”, and he meant it. I was not a son-in-law. He saw me as part of the family.
As my wife and I were approaching our first anniversary of marriage, she was talking to him one day and made a statement to the effect of “You know, when Wes and I fight, I usually win most of the time” (time warped interpretation, but that was the gist of it). Andy replied as only a father can, “You know sweetie, sometimes it’s just easier for the husband to let the wife think she’s right.”
We celebrate our 15th anniversary this summer and there were many other times in our marriage where he stepped in for me, and I am forever grateful.
My thought is not necessarily about what I lost, although I may be losing quite a few more arguments from here on out. My thoughts today are about the kind of man who treated an outsider like family. Who trusted someone he did not raise to love and care deeply for his only daughter.
For me, as I reflect (because that’s what I do), I cannot help but ask myself 2 questions: 1) Am I willing to live up to that trust? I love my wife beyond what I ever thought possible, and am committed to continuing our journey together through the ups and downs. And 2) Am I willing to show that same level of trust when the day comes?
I usually like to end my posts each day with a nice little bow, but you know, today, I don’t have one. The grief we feel in mourning the loss of someone we love is deep. The joy we have in remembering his legacy is great. I think there’s room for both.