There is a certain irony to this month’s introduction, especially as it was written prior to Boris Johnson’s latest lockdown announcement. Enjoy!
To me, November feels like the darkest of months. October feels autumnal, December has Christmas and January offers glimpses of a new year ahead. November as a month, needs lightening up with fireworks and festivals like Diwali where sparks fills the air through a barrage of fireworks and floating embers from bonfires. Traditionally, there would be unflattering effigies of world figures astride the tops of these burning stacks as the people make their feelings clearly known.
But what’s at the heart of our desire to light bonfires? We will all be aware of Guy Fawkes and his plot to assassinate the king due to the persecution of Catholics in the 1600s. To this day, there is still a sectarian history to our re-enacted celebratory pyres and burning of effigies, and whilst the symbolism and meaning have dampened or been lost what remains true is that in reality we’re remembering the actions of a desperate group of people who were being persecuted for their faith, willing to do something dramatic to instigate change. Thankfully, and hopefully today, we are more welcoming and inclusive of cultures, creeds and denominations.
As we continue to explore what are our motivations for being leaders, maybe we should bear this historical lesson in mind, as we look to work and operate in such as a way as to include, not divide?
As always with our wePRAY’s we’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas and feedback… it’s how we grow and get better.
November 2020 – Exploring the two Leadership Motives?
Last month I introduced the concept that motivation is a strong influencing factor in people’s leadership style. I highlighted the two key motivating factors – reward-centred, and responsibility-centred and asked which was your dominant motivating trait.
As we head into this month’s wePRAY I thought that it was important to dive a little deeper into how these motivation styles are outworked, so that we can begin to assess each based on its merits and faults. The challenge we have, is that for many of us, we’ll already be writing off the notion of reward-centred leadership because this is the antithesis of what it means to be both a Christian and by proxy a Christian leader. If this is the case, we’re therefore called more towards the responsibility-centred approach. However, I’m hoping that by looking at both and addressing the pro’s and con’s we’ll begin to see that there are traps we can fall into within our leadership, which mean we end up working against our own motivation, rather than with it.
As a child, I loved drama and acting. The opportunity to share a character on a stage and hear the audience applaud or shout encore was something that I quickly began craving. I remember playing Charlie Bucket in a school production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory aged about 8 or 9 and the audience calling for an encore. It was like an addiction had been created. As I grew older, this addiction began to wane… I still loved hearing the audience applaud and be engaged, but somewhere down the line, I lost sight of what I’d loved as a child. Other things had filled its space. By the time I finished my ‘A’ Level Theatre Studies, I’d lost so much interest and passion for it that I was only rewarded with an ‘N’ grade… e.g. You were nearly good enough for an E!
In short, I’d become reward centred – my desire for the crowd’s approval and reward – and I’d lost sight of my own personal responsibility to deliver the best I could be. Someone became more important to me than something… in this case myself.
This, however, isn’t meant to be some form of melancholic, why me, type confessional! I’ve come to realise, as I’ve gotten older, that I actually prefer to be out of the limelight and whilst I can still stand up front and talk about the work we do at east to west, my motivation has changed and now I’m much happier highlight the amazing work of others.
One of the other lads on my ‘A’ Level Theatre Studies course, Oliver, was a very similar character to me, with one clear difference. He spent his time doing two things. Firstly, he would do all he could to ensure he was the best he could be. He would know his lines, know other people’s lines and be constantly thinking about stage directions, blocking and ensuring the audience got the best experience they could have. Secondly, he ensured that everything he did, enabled others to shine. His performances brought out the best in others. His critiques were challenging, but ringed in kindness and encouragement and his appetite to learn was voracious. When his group did their ‘A’ Level exam piece everyone in his group scored highly… except him. The moderators remark was that he clearly had ability, but it didn’t feel like he was pushing himself. And yet, everyone else in that class knew that without Oliver, that performance piece could have been a disaster. And Oliver’s response: ‘It’s great everyone did so well’… and it was said with total sincerity and without any hint of irony, sarcasm or resentment.
In a nutshell we have the two different motives for leadership played out. In my case, the draw of the crowd and their responses were key… when this faded and stopped, so too did my desire to be involved. In the case of Oliver, his motivations were people… helping them grow and get better, and ultimately, to a place where they were able to outshine him. It’s a testament to the boy (as was), that he chose to celebrate their success over his. I was living for the now, he was living for the tomorrow… and the days, weeks and months after that too.
So, what does that mean for us today? Leadership is a tough place to be… As Harry S. Truman famously remarked, ‘The buck stops here!’ In essence, responsibility starts and finishes with the leader and this is often a lonely and difficult place to be, especially as growing organisations and building culture can be a thankless and unending job, and the desire, energy and passion to keep doing it can quickly wane. If our sole motivation to be a leader is to accumulate wealth, further our societal status or reputation, ignore the hard stuff and focus on whatever prickles our interest on any given day, then our leadership is already doomed to fail. We’ll burn out quickly, become ineffective and remain in post not for the benefit of others, but because we aren’t prepared to give up what we’ve ‘earned’. All this then taints and tarnishes the work we’ve done to get us to this point.
The introduction to this month’s wePRAY talks about the darkness of November and the need to bring light into this darkness. It also highlights how we’ve become blinkered to what is at the heart of the bonfire night celebrations – the persecution of a group of people. It is so easy to have blind spots to things and we need to be willing to both allow people to speak into our lives when there are blind spots and do so for others. For me, it wasn’t until I opened that ‘A’ level envelope and saw the ‘N’ for nearly that I realised that the reward was more important to me than the responsibility. This had become a blind spot for me…
Maybe over the coming weeks, there may be value in speaking to someone you trust and seeing whether your motivation for leading has become a blind spot for you… and if it has, talk through what (if anything) you’re going to do about it…
This month we’re praying for Ant, who heads up east to west! He’s asking that you pray in these key areas for him:
Please pray for Oli, my eldest son who started Uni this term. It’s such a hard time to try and make connections and build relationships let alone start a degree course which is now 95% online. He has done well but the thought of a month in lockdown is not something he or anyone else is looking forward too, especially as before reading week he was in a 2-week quarantine due to one of his flat testing positive for Covid-19! We are thankful to God that he was able to come home for reading week and spend some time with us.
Pray for Rachel, my wife as she works full time as an infant schoolteacher.
Pray for Harry (year 11) and Zach (year 8), our two other sons, especially for Harry as he is in the middle of GCSE mocks and given what happened this year, mocks have taken on new meaning as evidence for teacher assessments to final marks that maybe be needed.
Thank God as we have just heard from St Peter’s Hospital that our EMERGE team will be asked to continue to support young people and their families during the November lockdown. This is such an encouragement to Eliz and her team of fantastic volunteers.
Please pray for our schools team as we enter another lockdown, what with how quickly new instructions come from central government, this could mean different things for each team member depending on how schools want to use them in supporting the students and their families both onsite and virtually.
Please pray that myself and the leadership team will be able to support, care and equip our wonderful team during this time and that God would go before us and meet our team in their needs for their families and the work they do supporting children, young people and families.
Finance and Fundraising. Please pray that we would continue to trust God for all that we need. We estimate we need to raise around £80,000 this year and given the impact of Covid-19 on finances, this could be a real challenge. Pray that God would bring alongside us; people, churches, trust funders, and businesses that would be willing to contribute to that need.