In leading an organization, it is so easy to be so far above the day-to-day work that one can forget how a successful organization came to exist: the people doing the day-to-day work. As both the Head of School (responsible for the organizational health and growth of the entirety of Evansville Christian School) and the middle school principal (responsible for the day-to-day academic leadership and culture defining at the 6th through 8th grade level), I can attest that it takes a great deal of focus to make sure that I am not leading a faceless army. The health of our school, our relationships, our very souls depend on not only knowing people in a deeper fashion, but being known as well.
So, I ask, who are the people that you lead? More importantly, do you know those whom you lead at the heart level? Dan Rockwell, author of a dynamite leadership blog called Leadership Freak, says, “If you don’t know the people you lead, they’re just tools.” Think about what that means. If you are simply focused on accomplishing your organizational goals, you may be doing it at the expense of those who are doing the lion’s share of the work. Leaders can meet their goals in one of two ways: they can know and grow their employees in ways that inspires them to do their best work toward personal and organizational goals, or they can focus on the growth of their organizations by using the employees as a means to an end. To quote Dan Rockwell again (and similarly), “When projects come first, people become tools.”
What does the bible say about being known? Were we not made to be fully known? Does God not say that light overpowers darkness (John 1:5)? Think of the sigh of relief that hopefully all of us have felt in the moments after a true confession of sin. 1st Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” If God truly knows us and seeks to be truly known by us, why should that not be our goal as well for others? When, as a leader, you can inspire your partners by knowing the passions of their hearts and looking for opportunities to make experiences awesome for them, the only product that can be produced is higher quality, more invested work.
Leadership absent of relationship…no thank you. It is dull. It is void. It is ultimately destructive. And it’s very deceiving. To all leaders – know your partners, and allow yourself to be known. The risk of not knowing and being known may very well be a lonely path. As the words of the ancient Afghan proverb say, “If you think you’re leading and no one is following you, then you’re only taking a walk.”
Michael W. Allen
Head of School
Evansville Christian School