Over the past several years I have read a lot on the topic of leadership and attended numerous leadership conferences. It seems more than in most fields, leadership gurus love trite, pithy slogans.
If it rhymes and fits on a bumper sticker it must be true, right?
This came up because I’ve been rereading Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, by Ruth Haley Barton. In the book, Barton examines the story of Moses. She focuses on his 40 years in the wilderness as crucial preparation for the journey he led the Israelites on, and then relates his journey to the leadership journey most Christian leaders find themselves on at some point in their lives.
As I was reading today, a leadership slogan I’ve read and heard a lot, popped up in my head:
He that thinketh he leadeth, and hath no one following, is only taking a walk.
That makes sense right? A person can’t be a leader if they don’t have followers. Which brings up the question, “During those 40 years in the wilderness was Moses a leader?”
Because if we go only by that saying, he wasn’t. He was just taking a walk….in the desert…for 40 years.
By this reasoning, Moses wasn’t a leader until Aaron showed up…and really that was just one follower. Much of his encounters with Pharaoh occurred without the support, or followership of the Israelites. So when did he become a leader?
Or was he already a leader in the desert before his confrontation with the leader of Egypt?
But that’s the problem when we try to sum up something profound in a way that is brief and memorable (trite?).
In the book The Road to Character, by David Brooks, he writes about resume virtues, and eulogy virtues. Resume virtues are basically those things you’ve done that will benefit your employer. Eulogy virtues are the things people say about you at your funeral. (And then we wonder why so many of our leaders crash and burn in such dramatic fashion.)
When we make the height of leadership about what you do, we communicate that it is your resume virtues that really matter. Because those are the values that get built in the midst of a crowd. The eulogy ones seem to happen only when there is a big chunk of wilderness time.
If our identity is as a leader, then the wilderness has be resisted. Right?