For the last year or two, I learned a valuable insight. I have learned one of the greatest tests of personal leadership. There is something you can do and after you do it, you and everyone around you will have a very clear picture of what kind of leader you are. Are you ready for this? It’s really simple. Okay, here it is.
That’s it. Just leave. Leave for a week. Leave for two weeks. Leave for a month or two. You can even leave for good. When you are gone, your leadership is revealed in multiple ways.
For years I’ve taken a week or two of vacation at a time, which is always a challenge. However, the last two summers I’ve stepped up my game. Last summer I took the entire month of July off. This summer, I was gone for June and July. When you’re a busy person with a lot of responsibilities, it’s a challenging thing to be gone for that long and I do feel that your leadership will be revealed in your absence.
I’ve experienced significant frustration when staff or co-workers leave for an extended break. There have been employees who have left permanently and I’ve struggled to pick up all the pieces. There have been others that made me question, “what in the world have they been doing all this time?” There have been other times where I’ve been frustrated because a decision needed to be made or an action needed to take place, but everything was stalled because no one had been empowered or equipped to move forward without the missing person. That’s bad leadership. So, here are three questions to consider regarding your leadership in the context of leaving:
Are people angry/frustrated that you’re leaving?
This is a question to ask before you leave. If you’re self-aware enough to ask this question before you depart, you might be able to fix many of the issues before you leave. It’s one thing for people to be sad that you’re going to be gone, but it’s something entirely different for people to feel angry and frustrated. Do volunteers or other staff feel like things are going to fall apart or that they’re going to be stuck in your absence. This is a warning sign that you may not have delegated enough responsibility and authority to those you work with and lead. It may also be a sign that you not planning ahead so that you can set everyone up to handle whatever comes their way.
A great way to work on this is to meet with those you’ll leave behind and ask them, “what are you nervous about in my absence? What do you need from me to be successful or to handle obstacles?”
Are people angry/frustrated when you’re gone?
This is going to happen in a variety of ways. You’ve been gone for a week and someone on your team realizes on Saturday that no one bought supplies for Sunday’s service. It’s typically something you did, but you forgot. Maybe the computer crashed and you’re the only one with the passwords. There are some volunteers that have giving your coordinator a hard time because they’re used to dealing with just you.
When these things happen, your staff, volunteers and co-workers mutter unkind things under their breath about you. This is probably going to happen sometime regardless, but your level of leadership will determine their level of frustration while you’re out.
Are you a control freak? What in your ministry/organization depends on your physical presence in order to be successful? If you don’t start letting go of things before you leave, you’ll have a lot of unhappy people resenting you while you’re out.
Understand this. You’re unique ability to do something that no one else can do isn’t what makes you valuable to your organization. It makes you a liability. Develop and empower others to do everything you can do.
Are people angry/frustrated when you get back?
Have you ever gotten back from time away only to be greeted by a punch in the face? Me neither, but it’s a funny thought. However, I’ve come back to meet with people who wanted to punch me in the face. How many meetings do you have to have with people to fix or straighten out situations that happened while you were gone? It’s one thing to have to meet with some people to clear up some miscommunication or address things that no one anticipated, but it’s another thing to have to do relational damage control because of your lack of planning or foresight.
You need a break. I whole-heartedly recommend getting away for more than one week at a time so that you can fully rejuvenate. However, it’s a bad sign when your staff, volunteers or co-workers dread your annual vacation. Aspire to lead a team that celebrates your opportunity to rest and recover.
Tuck these three questions away and the next time you’re preparing to go away, pull them out and do a little self-evaluation. You’re team will thank you for it!
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