Around a Holiday Table

Eight friends and family members gathered recently for a holiday meal.  As the meal went on, conversation drifted into talk of everyone’s jobs.

A young woman who had just started her first job after graduate school shared about loving the work but struggling with the lack of on-boarding (even grading on a Covid-curve) from an immediate supervisor who fielded questions by deferring answers to “later.”

A woman with three decades of professional experience, who serves an educational institution, had lost her boss to Covid. The institution appointed an interim who knew nothing about the department’s area of work.  Insecure, the new boss was trying to bluff his way through a job he didn’t fully understand and was undercutting seasoned staff in the process.

A social worker talked about his experience doing front-line, important work with a county social service department, only to reach a breaking point with the lack of focus and expertise on the part of his supervisors.  He just left and is now in private practice as a therapist.

A young woman who works in high-end dining told account after account of how her managers tended to pick favorites, pit one worker against another, ignore scheduling requests and show little empathy or flexibility amid the challenges of the pandemic.

An attorney who had recently clerked for a federal court was now in a practice where the stated goal was to help the most vulnerable citizens access quality legal assistance.  As he settled into the job, however, he realized that not only were the goals misaligned with reality; those in leadership, who could do something to address the misalignment, were uninterested in trying.

Five gifted people sitting around a table.  Five stories of important work and willing workers.  And five disappointing, dispiriting experiences …  all, at least in part, because of a lack of attention to leadership.

As we begin a new year of Digging a Deeper Well, memories of this table conversation remind us that leadership does not come with a title or a three-year term, on a church board or anywhere else.  Leadership is a craft.  And as such, leadership needs to be nurtured, developed, and supported. Good leadership allows organizations, offices, and churches to grow and serve, and can at its best provide deep fulfillment for those who work together.  The “great resignation” has many causes in our society right now, but ineffectual leadership is at the heart of most descriptions of why people are putting their work aside and checking out or moving on.

Here’s to another year of working, discussing, and wondering together what leadership looks like on your church board.

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