I’ve worked for many in the decade plus that I’ve been running the *rat* race. I’ve learned what to do and mostly what not to do. I mentioned in a previous post that I can count on one hand the leaders that positively taught me what leadership is. Let’s clarify, too – I’m talking about Leadership, not management. Yes, there is a difference.
One leader in particular comes to mind and I’d like to share about them. For anonymity, let’s refer to this person as “C”. “C” and I spent more time working together than one working for the other. “C” is the quiet, retrospective type often found with a book in one hand and a Starbucks in the other. Known locally at almost any coffee shop in his surrounding area, “C” had a gentle mannerism that managed to slip into his waking and sleeping. Introversion wasn’t an act – it was who they were and yet “C” couldn’t help but find himself surrounded by those attracted to his personality.
“C” worked hard – still does. Silence couldn’t be mistaken for distance or a desire to be left alone. It simply meant that “C” had a job to do and they were focused on accomplishing that job – and accomplishing it well. As far as a work relationship went, although we served two different groups of clientele, “C” acted as a buffer for me in my younger years. Although only a few years older, they served to help give boundaries to my often rambunctious, nervous personality. “C” probably didn’t know this, but they certainly aided in my growth as a newbie to the “corporate” world.
Fast forward five years and I found myself working for “C”. They deserved the job and I still believe that no one else could have curated the position any better than he did or could. It takes a special type of individual to not only lead a group of people and meet the goals set, but to also understand the institution on its deepest level and relate in such a way. It’s a shame that others above us didn’t see it that way. I believe they missed out.
During my tenure as a subservient
slave employee (jk) to “C”, I would often find myself at a crossroads of sorts with his leadership style. I was fast and furious. “C” was aimed for progress but carefully curated and strategically placed. I can’t speak for them, but I know I’m still the type to rage in guns blazing ready to take the world by storm. Neither philosophy was bad, but at times, certainly made things interesting in the office.
Here’s the crux of what I’m trying to get at: “C” taught me how to slow down. They showed me that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. They taught me that people are not a means to an end, they are the end. “C” taught me to hold firm to convictions regardless of outside pressure. They taught me what it meant to step outside of my comfort zone and embrace the uncomfortable. There was no one more introverted than “C”, but I have never seen an individual work a booth at a conference as proficiently as they did – for 12 hours a day at that.
They taught me a work ethic that doesn’t die because of resistance. They taught me how to be professional. They taught me that grace is far more important than goals. “C” had an amazing way of speaking life into my cold, scared, and empty heart. I don’t know if they know but the seeds of God’s mercy and grace they planted in my heart have sprung.
Of all of the things I gleaned from my relationship with “C”, one lesson stands out and I don’t even know if he meant to teach me. Differing styles of leadership principles (fast & furious or strategic and slow) don’t always have to stand at odds. In fact, differences can be beautiful if handled the right way. REAL leadership is not a one way street of my wants and desires. Leadership means accepting differences and learning how to accomplish your goals despite them. Leadership is grace, not an iron fist. Real leadership is loving the person more than their ability to provide something for you.
“C” taught me that leadership is about people, not plans. It’s about service. It’s gentle, yet firm. It’s about improving someone else’s life. “C” taught me that leadership revolves around Jesus Christ.
I stand several years removed from our working relationship but can’t help but see the fruits of someone else’s intentional or unintentional efforts at aiding my growth as a man. We weren’t popular with many people, but to me, “C” was the best leader anyone could have hoped for.
I hope I can be like “C” when I grow up.