Here in Charlotte, I lead a group of about 30 software quality assurance testers for one of the city’s national banks. And my team is fairly evenly split; half work here in North Carolina and the remainder work in Bangalore, India. In the corporate sense, this is referred to as “on-shore” and “off-shore” labor. For me, however, they are all ONE team. They’re my team and I am their leader.
Leadership, as my college alma mater taught me, comes in many shapes and sizes. The most significant type of leadership to me has always been “reverent leadership”; by definition, reverent leadership (or power) is gained by a leader who has strong interpersonal relationship skills. Referent power, as an aspect of personal power, becomes particularly important as organizational leadership is increasingly about collaboration and influence rather than command and control. For me, reverent leadership has never been about being “liked” so much as it’s being respected and being the type of leader that others would follow without question.
Pat yourself on the back if this is the type of leader you are….or aspire to be! I have my bad days as a manager, but (hopefully) on a majority of the good days, my team would agree that I resemble most of the reverent leadership traits.
“Leadership” also brings its share of responsibility. Remember the old saying, “to that which much is given, much is expected”.
Sound familiar? Jesus told a parable in Luke 12:48 about a servant who was given a lot of responsibility and much was expected in return. I believe in a corporate sense today, much is expected from those who are responsible for the lives and welfare of those working subordinate to us. And, also in a corporate sense, this is typically defined as making sure the work gets done, by the appropriate skilled individuals, that they are paid appropriately for the work they do, and ensure the greater good of the team is paramount above all…..so long as the organization’s bottom line is profitable.
But what does this parable say to us in a Biblical sense?
I learned a little more about this recently when tragedy struck my close-nit team. One of the Charlotte team members, died suddenly and unexpectedly. Though I will go on record saying I do not have “favorites” on my team, this particular individual was quite special. His personality and demeanor, often times a little abrupt with his northern, Brooklyn accent, represented the core character of the entire team. Always the first into the office, he was my go-to guy when I needed to get a pulse of the team. He would willingly tell me where I had gaps and respectfully offer recommendations.
He was the first to tell me about a new coffee shop opening in Uptown. Or share any rumors of new restaurants.
And he had a certain sense about the others on the team. While he was quick to put dissention in its place, he was just as quick to offer up someone else’s good deeds ahead of his own. A true team player.
I miss him dearly….and that’s not something that’s shared often in our corporate settings.
When I got the news of his passing, I shifted quickly into the mode that was shaped from my military training.: “Focus the team on what needs to happen; continue the mission; adapt where necessary; don’t spend a lot of time on the softer side of what’s happening, else we lose any momentum towards the goal at hand.”
My tester had been uncharacteristicly missing from work and as I worked with Charlotte police for several days, jointly we put some pieces together, which ultimately allowed them to discover him passed away in his home. Upon confirming the news I had thought might be the outcome, I assembled my team, informed them of the news, and put together an email message for a broader audience that included executives from the bank. I began assisting police on how to contact the next of kin. And, for me, I kept myself busy for several days, even weeks, as if to stay ahead of the personal grief that would eventually surface.
Corporate America doesn’t always prepare us for what should be the more compassionate response. But God does. Where much is given, and where much is expected. I faced many team members and other co-workers who cried at the news of his passing. I met with the mother of my employee after she and one of her other sons traveled to Charlotte from Brooklyn. What was I to say? What was my role in all of this?
Could I share tears in front of my co-workers? Could I offer an embrace to ease someone’s pain? Would either of these be perceived as weakness from someone who’s supposed to be a leader?
Recall Jesus openly weeping over the loss of his dear friend, Lazarus in John 11:35.
Leader….yes. Comforter…..huh? Pastor…..no way!
Leader, comforter, and pastor…..yes, in the immediate days that followed, and continuing still a month since his passing.
Not a day has gone by since “Jimmie” suddenly departed that I haven’t thought about him while driving into Uptown. I’ve even reached for my phone a few times getting ready to text him asking, “are there any surprises I need to know about today?…..”
I believe the lesson in this untimeliness is the leaning back on our spiritual muscle memory. I could not have predicted any of this would happen to me….nor could I have promised how I would respond. I can only be thankful that God has prepared me, and with His grace, I was able to be leader….comforter….and pastor…to a grieving team, a heart-broken family, and the empty pit in my own heart. There are no other explanations than to be thankful for a loving God that has carried me once again through some difficult times.
If you can relate to the story of my past several weeks, then I hope you can also relate to God’s grace in our lives. My prayer today is that we will always have a loving Father to show us how to lead, how to comfort, and, most importantly, how to pastor those who need that simple kindness in our broken world.