Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Processing - Part 2

I am continuing to think about my time in Tirol and my observations of our interns there. In part 1, I talked about the role of expectations in ministry and our emotional processing of events. Head over there and check out that part, as well. In this part I want to discuss something that is rarely talked about in leadership today. This idea gets almost no air time at all. No one writes books about this, or gives lectures or conferences about it. But it is essential to the function of a team and is needed in every single leadership role. The idea I want to examine is following. What does it mean to follow a leader? How can we, as those under leadership, work with leaders to make them more effective and help them to equip us to accomplish our roles?

In part 2, I want to discuss something I saw very quickly about camp. Camp is a leadership incubator. There are so many different roles and responsibilities. Camps function different ways, but I can break down a bit of what I observed. Our interns were under three program staff that were running the main operations of the camp. These were people leading games and deciding where events would take place. They spent time with students as well, but their primary role was making sure the camp ran smoothly and safely. Our interns lead their own cabins in teams of two. They invested in their students and focused on ways to connect with them directly. It is, from what I gather, a pretty standard leadership structure.

At the airport sending 3 of the 4 back to the states.
Our interns were moving back and forth between the role of leader with their students and the role of follower of the program staff leading the whole camp. That dynamic in and of it self is not new; many find themselves in such a situation, moving back and forth between leader and follower. However, the role of "Follower" is not something that is often discussed in leadership books. In a leadership structure, it is crucial to be an effective follower.

One way we can be a good follower is to recognize how much power and influence the subordinate actually has, which is A LOT. Much of this isn't direct authority, but we can indirectly push a team towards success. As followers, we have the ability to speak truth into a situation and help a leader understand the most important facets of the problem as well as a solution that is viable. We may not see the big picture that a team leader sees, but we do have a very unique perspective based on the specific needs of our role. When we effectively communicate our needs or how a leader can best support us, we empower that leader to make the best possible decisions and improve our own productivity.

As you grow older, you realize how much you become your parents. One of my father's favorite phrases was simple but powerful. "Nate, think." Deep, I know, right?! But it is so deep. He usually explained it as, "think about what you are doing. Don't just do it. Think about the process. What needs to happen next? What are the tools required for that? How does that fit into what I am doing now? What can I do in this step of the process that will make my next step smoother? How does all this fit into the big picture?" And so on. The questions can continually roll. He wasn't meaning it critically; what he was trying to instill in me was a level of self-awareness. What am I doing? Is this the best way to do that? Apply previously acquired knowledge to the present situation.

This self awareness is so important in team work and in working with a leader. It applies beyond physical tasks to intangible ones, as well. Asking questions like, "What sort of personality is my leader? What are the strengths and weaknesses of that personality? How can I compliment or support that leader in areas where he or she is weak? What ways can I rely on  his or her strengths?" You can see where this is going. The great thing about all this was I saw my interns doing this! I saw them engaging in situations and offering up helpful responses that supported their leaders to do better.

I hope you are enjoying reading along as I process this summer with our interns. I learned a great deal from my time with them, and I am excited to see what God does through them.

Do you think the skill of following a leader is not talked about enough in the church? Throw your answer in the comments below. We'd love to start a great discussion.