After five years of leading a fast-paced and growing ministry in Mongolia I’m just beginning to learn what may be my most important lesson in leadership;how to take a back seat.
In today’s media-centric age we view leaders as the people out in front, taking charge. Leaders carry the vision, motivate followers and staff, and stay in the public eye. Isn’t that what leading is all about? After five years of leading Eagle Television in Mongolia I had the privilege of hiring a new Station Manager to replace me in my daily management duties so that I could begin focusing my efforts in other areas of ministry. At the same time I installed a new leader in our Ministry Department, responsible for our Christian television programming. As I watched these two smart and capable women take to their roles I quickly realized that they weren’t doing things the way I would do them. In fact, they were doing some things that I wouldn’t even think of doing. Ladies! What are you doing to my ministry?
Making it better.
As a leader it can be difficult to hand over what you’ve built to someone else. When they begin to restructure what you’ve built, even in small ways, you sometimes feel the urge to step forward and tug the reigns back a bit. Yet there is also a joy in shepherding quietly from behind. Standing behind a new leader and occasionally walking beside him or her in support has its own reward; the reward of multiplication. Watching someone else take the reigns is exciting, but not without an occasional pang of jealously.
I wonder if John the Baptist felt this in even the smallest way when he watched Jesus’ ministry unfold into something other than what he expected (Matthew 11:2-6). What went through Paul’s mind as he left each new church under indigenous leadership that had not yet walked with Christ for even one-tenth the length of his experience? One only needs to see these men’s willingness to step back and let others increase while they decreased to see the result. The new leader you raise up may not walk the road the same way you do, but take heart, for you will have no greater joy than to hear that [your] children are walking in the truth (III John 4).