As a leader I feel a lot of expectations. The team I serve want me to consistently lead them well. That includes expectations that they have a clear vision to follow, support in fulfilling that vision, and that they feel heard, cared for, loved and championed. These things alone would be enough for me to carry, and actually more than enough to fill my whole timetable. But I think my team also want to see me lead groups, invest in other individuals, and simply be a good role model. And I am somehow expected to help relieve the burden of those I lead, while not becoming overly stressed myself. Are these expectations verbalized? No. Do we talk about this topic? Not really. Is it actually the truth? Possibly not.
But my own expectations of leaders, either recognised or in training, are high too. I watch people around me and I see loads of potential. Sadly, some people never seem to reach their leadership potential. This could be simply a skills deficit, which is compounded by a lack of access to or initiative towards training. For others, there may be character issues such as selfishness, fear of commitment, control or a lack of empathy that inhibit leadership growth.
I have realised over the past 20 years that leadership is messy. Becoming or being a leader will never be perfectly smooth path. Leaders fail and they make mistakes. They are never fully “there” and always on a journey. I am one of them. My expectations of myself are often too high. I actually disappoint myself regularly trying to live up to my unrealistic expectation of ‘perfect leadership’. I constantly have to remind myself that I am not carrying a backpack filled with sandwiches to feed the people towards perfection. I am carrying a backpack full of tools.
I constantly have to remind myself that I am not carrying a backpack filled with sandwiches to feed the people towards perfection. I am carrying a backpack full of tools.
One of the most important tools is grace. This is a gift for both for myself and others. Grace allows me to realise I’m good enough for Jesus and for myself. Grace allows me to realise I am also enough for the people around me. I can only do what I can do. It will never be perfect. I am still learning and growing. If I experience grace for myself and practice it, I become gracious to people around me.
Another tool is transparency. If I can’t admit to my strain and weaknesses, I will miss an opportunity to live an authentic and transparent life. I want to model vulnerability to my team, so they learn how to care for me, and how to be vulnerable themselves.
Grace and transparency go hand in hand. God is a God of both. He wants to open our eyes so we know who we truly are and who He is. He wants to lead us into spacious fields of grace, where we have a broad perspective of Kingdom life. There our narrow expectations of ‘perfection’ are released in a green filed of humility, filled with flowers of grace. This is a wonderful place to live!