How do you characterize a leader?
Are leaders merely those people that lead others? Do leaders possess specific qualities that are requirements for the job? Who appoints our leaders? Is it other leaders, or the leaders themselves?
Simon Sinek, one of my favorite authors about leadership, defines leadership as not being about who you are in charge of. But instead, who is in your charge. Isn’t Simon leading us to be servants, to “love one another” by helping us to understand that the greatest among us must be a servant to others?
“Leadership is not a rank or a position, it is a choice
– a choice to look after the person to the left of us
& the person to the right of us.”
Would it surprise you to know that a synonym for Leader is Conduit? It surprised me! Isn’t a conduit basically a channel or pipe that carries something from “point A” to “point B”? Or, like a river that serves as a conduit of water channeling it from mountain streams to the ocean. Have you ever considered a river to be a leader of water?
In my career, most leaders were self-defined. Meaning that the leader would typically declare themselves the leader of whatever situation they deemed needed leading. It would always bring a smile to see them turn around to see if anyone was following them. Most would ensure captured followers through draconian edicts, rules, and compensation plans. So many times, leaders would implement plans that guaranteed their position and victory in leadership; instead of plans designed to help those in their charge to be successful.
One of the great lessons from my early years on the road was the understanding that if we help enough other people succeed, it ensures our success as well. By focusing on others, they will focus on others too. “A rising tide lifts ALL boats”. In contrast, when we concentrate on only our success, those in our charge will do the same. Then, like the tower of Babel, the confusion and chaos will sink ALL ships.
"I speak to you timeless truth: a servant is not superior to his master,
and an apostle is never greater than the one who sent him."
John 13:16 TPT
When considering the contradiction between conduits and leaders it occurred to me that we see leaders that serve as conduits all the time. You know, those people that stand in front of an orchestra waving a wand around like the music wouldn’t exist without them. The Conductor. Have you ever wondered what the orchestra would sound like without them?
As the first seventh grade, seventh (out of seven) chair trombonists in our “all city” orchestra (ACO) the thought occurred to me a lot. Mr. Franklin was our conductor with all the bells, whistles and even the thin wooden wand. Thinking back to those days helped me to clarify my questions about conduits, conductors, directors and leaders.
Mr. Franklin stood about six foot five, with sandy hair streaked with gray. From my first day in the orchestra, it was clear that he cared about each musician. All were handpicked by Mr. Franklin, and he worked hard to make sure that the ACO was the best in the state. It wasn’t unusual to see Mr. Franklin stop the entire orchestra while he would sit with an oboist or cellist until they would understand their part.
During those years, most of us in the orchestra were still taking private lessons in school during the week. If nothing else, it was a great way to avoid class. Several times during my year in ACO, my lesson teacher would tell me he had talked with Mr. Franklin and that he would like me to work on this or that. At the time, it was annoying, thinking Mr. Franklin was “checking up” on me. Now, when looking back, it is clear to me that Mr. Franklin was a true conduit. A Conductor. His definition of leadership was to make sure that each musician in the orchestra was a success in their role, ensuring the success of the entire orchestra.
In contrast, during my last years in elementary school our orchestra was led by Mrs. Cowels. A big lady in her mid-fifties with gray hair and horn-rimmed glasses. Mrs. Cowels had a thin wooden stick of her own. However, instead a waving it in the air to see the music like a child waves a wand of soap bubbles. Mrs. Cowels would incessantly tap her stick on her music stand to get our attention. Often yelling “McCUEN!!!” while glaring at me over the top of her glasses. Unlike Mr. Franklin, Mrs. Cowels was a Director. Working hard to direct all of us in the orchestra to deliver HER vision instead of nurturing the players to be their best, Mrs. Cowles would scold players for not hitting HER marks. She had a clear vision of what she wanted, and used every discipline, threat, and glare to ensure HER success.
So there you have it, two people serving as leaders in the same job. A conductor and a director. Do they remind you of anyone in your life? Would you prefer to be conducted to be the best you can be? Or would you rather be directed to hit the marks to ensure someone else’s success?
Looking in the mirror, what do You see? A conductor or a director?
"You are to lead by a different model.
If you want to be the greatest,
then live as one called to serve others."
Mark 10:43 TPT
Above All else …