During an evening in recent history my family went for a walk around a small lake in a local, State Park. The party consisted on myself pushing a stroller with my young son in it, my wife, several of my sisters, my brother, his girlfriend, my father, and a couple brothers riding their bikes. At first, we all started out as one big group but quickly separated into our own cliques strolling at our own individual pace. I tried to stick with the crowd but it seemed the slower I walked to be with everyone, the slower they walked. Odd. At one point, we were barely moving. Everyone was having a good time, talking, laughing, taking pictures of the scenic lake at dusk; it was quite tranquil. However, not being allowed in the park after dark I recognized we needed to pick up the pace or risk an unpleasant interaction with the park rangers. I began charging ahead leading the way, leading my tribe around the lake at a pace I felt adequate. As I walked briskly, pushing the stroller and semi-listening to my two-year old’s chatter, my mind began to contemplate leadership. You see, it was quite lonely leading the way, quite a distance from the closest clique of evening walkers. Also, I had to navigate a trail that was the victim of torrential downpours that had exposed previously undiscovered rocks and roots not to mention the mini gullies washed through the pathway. This was not an easy feat with a stroller, at dusk, through the woods.
Isn’t that like leadership? Sometimes leadership can be lonely. It’s more fun to be a populist and hang back with the crowd but, as noted before, if someone isn’t setting the pace the group stops. It really isn’t much fun being the first to figure out how to navigate the trail either, hitting a root which causes the stroller handle to land in the pit of your stomach or stubbing your toe on that newly exposed rock, but somebody had to do it.
In what way are you a leader? A father or mother? Pastor? Older brother? Friend? Sometimes leadership is downright lonely but somebody needs to set the pace. What pace are you setting for your group? Interesting observation; make the pace realistic! It did not take long for me to realize the pace I initially charged ahead with, in all my passion and dedication, was not being matched by my group. They picked up the pace from the earlier dawdling but still was not nearly matching mine. I had to strike a balance between what I wanted and what my group could realistically accomplish. What if I had charged way ahead on the stroll? What would have happened if someone had twisted an ankle? What if a passing dog bit my sibling or my wife? What if a fellow lake goer had a few too many adult beverages and was a little tipsy… and handsy? If I had charged full steam ahead I may have been leading but of no practical help to my group. I had to set a challenging example but still walk with my group to help them along the way. One thing I failed to do on our evening stroll was engage my group to encourage them to walk a bit faster.
A leader must also find those pitfalls to warn his group about, be it a rock, root, or mini ravine. Or in your leadership role is it keeping an eye on pop culture, movies, music, social media, messaging, the list goes on and on!
Leadership isn’t always as glamorous as Colonel Chamberlain leading his men in a bayonet charge when they ran out of ammo. Sometimes it’s just setting the pace walking around the lake, or other seemingly insignificant daily tasks that may amount to more than you initially think. We need real leaders in this country, in the church, in government, now perhaps more than ever! And, yes, sometimes leadership is lonely along the way… BUT necessary and someone has to be willing to stand up and lead!