Today…I really f
ucked up. No way around it- I just sucked as a human today.
It’s funny how the things we want to become most often produce our biggest mistakes. There is something inside me that has always wanted to be a good leader, and for most of my early life and career, I’ve been placed into positions of leadership. Not to be self deprecating, but I’ve definitely not been a good “leader” by any thoughtful standard.
While charisma, passion, and dedication have landed me these position, my selfishness, impatience, and insecurity have lead me out with an indignant thrust, lead by justification that someone other than myself, was to blame.
But reality has come a’ knockin’ and I’m embracing the reality that I alone am responsible for my actions.
A bit late in life…but better late than never. So here’s my big epiphany:
Being entrusted to lead, is to be trusted to take responsibility (especially when you
This requires acting humbly- making decisions that benefit others- acting as a servant rather than a “boss.”
While the organization I’m stepping out of now has likely been one of the worst I’ve ever worked for, it’s also allowed me see the worst in myself.
Truth be told, I never learned to be a servant. Most of my career, I’ve been placed in roles that require responsibility without really having learned the value of leadership. I’ve taken that position, and people, for granted – creating a world in which my idealisms (mainly of being praised and running operations smoothly) meant more to me than people’s best interest.
If I were to “do my time” in this terrible company over again, I would practice the art of keeping my sour opinions to myself, my emotions in check, and being an encouragement to my team instead of commiserating with them.
To summarize a bit of my experience this past year: I was designated to manage people who would come to work intoxicated, those who were completely belligerent toward me (embarrassing the shit out of me in from coworkers and customers), those who couldn’t go a day without gossiping about another coworker, customers who would create the most elaborate stories and accusations to get something for free, managers who played favorites or would take every opportunity to remind you of how you screwed something up (like, something that they never addressed you about but told everyone else you screwed up), and other employees who were just all together miserable.
Not much different than what any manager deals with at some point in his or her career…not to mention what Jesus encountered in His ministry, I’m sure.
And within a crazy environment, you have a choice.
I could have risen above the crap and served with cheerfulness and integrity. Instead, I stooped down and met my team in their misery- but in commiseration- not to uplift. What’s more is that I actually posses the ability to be annoyingly encouraging and keep my shit together when things fall apart, but instead, I chose to add to their misery with reactive behavior.
I choose wrong…
True leadership is a choice- a choice to serve others regardless of the circumstances.
It is incredibly difficult to keep your opinions to yourself when everyone has a criticism about the way things are being run (and you, if you are even slightly willing to rise above the noise.) It’s difficult to keep personal woes and heartache out of your work when your upper management is criticizing you rather than supporting you. But it’s even harder to continue being a servant when others treat you like one.
Pride is the enemy of leaders.
And my pride has taken what would have been a successful year in this position and turned it into relief to my team in my departure.
That makes me so sad, but i know it’s true.
Reflecting on the past decade of working in various companies, I’m understanding that I’ve taken so much for granted. The skills, experience, and overall ability to be the person I’m capable of being are things I’ve neglected. I’ve not valued my value, thus, have continued operating like someone who deserves to be proverbially “abused.” Insecurity is a bitch, but overall, my attitude has been the real problem.
I’ve spent the last decade like a beggar- open handed and expecting advancement but giving only complaint in return. I’ve acted like an entitled child- throwing tantrums and shifting blame without acting like the person I’ve been entrusted to be.
I had so many opportunities this year, in the face of ugly gossip and tyrannical opposition, to step into the role of a leader…and I failed. I let petty comments and poor organization change me into a petty and poor “leader.”
But the buck stops here.
Awareness of where I have failed is more clear now than it’s ever been. Today forward, I claim my responsibility to give what I am expected to give – within boundaries and clear understanding. And despite poor management, organization, or being treated like a servant, I have decided to serve like a leader…
And servants are the only ones who deserve to be in leadership anyway.
I have no idea what opportunity will come next in my career. I honestly feel a bit lost without knowing what’s next. But for now, I hope to step into the identity of a servant – an aspiring “leader who eats last” – one that people will trust to lead with integrity and ability to serve in face of opposition.
This post is inspired by my literary mentors Simon Sineck, Nadia Bolz- Webber, and Seth Godin who have taught me what real leaders are made of. It took a while for this piece of their instruction to settle into my reality, but if I keep learning from them, I’m certain this next decade of work will be something I can be proud of.
“Leaders Eat Last” is an incredible philosophy (and book) coined by one of today’s most influential thought leaders in the business world, Simon Sineck. If you don’t have the time to read this, listen to his bad-ass presentations on the subject. You may experience “reality-whiplash”- but you won’t regret it.