I think I just learned one of those big life lessons… the kind that knocks your socks off–a really big one. So even though I’m taking a spiritual day I wanted to share it with the world because I am just so darn excited that I finally GOT it. Please bear with me… or if you’ve already learned all the life lessons you need to know, go ahead and click to your Facebook page now.
What defines success and failure? We have some pretty traditional, classic ideas based on our American experience. We all know what those criteria are… no need to list them here; but write it in your own words if you want. I think success is: mobilizing people toward action. Regardless of what the final outcomes are. In this day and age, if you can get anyone to commit themselves to some greater purpose you can call yourself a successful leader.
I have a good friend who has been knocking herself out to start up Family Promise in Casper–an interfaith program to help low-income families escape from poverty and achieve independence. There are a number of churches in the area that have committed to the project but I am ashamed to write that 2 of the 3 Catholic parishes won’t touch it with a pole. She was sharing her frustration while we drove to Laramie for the Rolheiser talk and I suggested maybe she had accomplished what was needed. In her work to promote the program and garner commitment, she challenged some people to really think about what they were preaching… and whether their actions matched their words. They are pretty uncomfortable now. I think she has been highly successful although she would argue otherwise since there might not be a Family Promise project in Casper.
After losing my first job eighteen months ago, I have agonizingly wrestled with feeling like a total failure. To be sure, I inherited a fledgling ministry surrounded by a huge number of larger dysfunctional leadership issues, but in the end, the fact remains that it all fell during my watch… despite the heart and soul and energy that I tried to inject. It is all gone now. And so was my sense of self-worth and achievement.
What I learned yesterday (as job #2 was taken away) and last night (as I slipped off into dream-land) is: what defines success is not the final result but what happened along the way while you were working to achieve that result.
A successful leader is not the one who is pinning feather after feather to his cap. The real success is the one who is working shoulder to shoulder with the people. We know them in our midst because we want to be right next to them… they energize us and challenge us to be more than we ever thought we could be. They make us better people by their mere presence.
The unimpeded slide into mediocrity is comfortable and safe. Some leaders choose to live there and do so quite nicely. Not me. It’s time to move on.