Jan 172019 1 Response

Please Save Me from Myself

“I need you to save me from me.” Those aren’t the words often spoken from employer to employee, but they are words I often need to utter. On Monday, I walked into the office of two co-workers and said this very thing. On the organizational chart, they report to me. But on many occasions I choose to report to them. I do so because I regularly stand in need of others to guide me, protect me, and assist me to make wise choices.

(For more on submission, see my book Fearless Families)

After nearly two decades of leadership, I’ve become well-aware of many of my faults. I’m sure I don’t know all of them, but I do know many of them. The organization I lead has suffered on multiple occasions because of my decisions. Sometimes those decisions are the result of my own failures or incompetence. Most of the time those decisions are simply the downside of my strengths. What makes me good in one area, makes me bad in another. I’ve now led long enough to recognize many of the areas in which I am not good. So I need help. (See: Leadership–Learning to Take a Punch)

Submission isn’t a word we like. The first image that comes to my mind is that of a wrestler about to have an arm, leg, or neck snapped off because he’s in a submission hold. He has to tap out because he can’t take it any more. He has to break his will before his opponent breaks his body. Submission is what we want to force on another and avoid have forced on us.

Yet leaders know there is beauty in submission. It’s not just the outcome of losers; it’s also the tool of leaders. Those who aren’t forced to submit by a job description or organizational chart, must willfully submit themselves to others. Failing to do so is willfully choosing to submit to your greatest weaknesses and blindspots.

Every good leader submits to others. Any leader who fails to submit fails to be a good leader.

When to Submit

Good submission takes place in a variety of situations. Here are three common times a leader should submit:

Weaknesses. Everyone has weaknesses–things we don’t know, understand, or see. We need others to help us. We have to know our likely problems and others need to be given permission to point them out. Every leader has specific tasks outside of the areas of expertise. Find someone who can help you in those moments and submit to them.

Tempted. Weakness is often a failure of knowledge or understanding, but temptation is often more emotional. We are often tempted to override what we know is right in order to do what we desire. In those times, someone must stop us.

Enmeshed. There are times in which we are too close to a situation to make a good decision. In those moments, we must submit to others. Just like a doctor shouldn’t treat her family member because the relationship can skew her judgment, so too, leaders must abstain from decisions in which they may be too close to a situation to view it fairly.

To Whom to Submit

While submission is important, we shouldn’t just blindly submit to anyone. Good leaders are primarily good not just because they submit but because they submit to the right people. Submit to others who are:

Wise. Smart isn’t enough. Especially in our day when we are overloaded by information, we don’t just need to find smart people. We need wise advisers. Wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge properly. Wise people have the ability to discern what matters. They can direct us toward what is right and noble.

Humble. Never follow someone who doesn’t follow someone. Refuse to be led by someone who refuses to be led. Humble people submit to others. Only to submit to those who are humble. Without humility, a person’s pride will destroy everything they touch. Don’t be someone they touch.

For you. If someone isn’t for you–not just for what you want in the moment, but for you in the long-run–they don’t deserve to be trusted with your submission. Yet when you know someone truly has your best interests at heart, you can submit to them knowing it’s for your own good.

Their Head Over Your Gut

We all have gut feelings. While it’s important to know our gut, we should rarely trust our intuitions over the wise advice of others.

Leadership can be lonely. Decisions rest solely on a leader’s shoulder. No one can fully know the pressure. Yet sometimes leaders make leadership more lonely than necessary. There are others who can give useful and necessary advice. However, if a leader doesn’t seek out other’s voices, if they don’t willfully request advice, and if they do not intentionally choose to submit to others, they will suffer alone. They will be isolated and they will be held captive by their own failures and biases.

Yet when a leader understands their imperfections and finds the right people to influence them, they can flourish. (See: Jesus, Leadership, and the Courage to Serve)

Good leadership requires that we submit ourselves to one another.

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