Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Musings of a Lion.

For those of us who were blessed with good educations they were not without the encouragement to be confident.  Employers seek those who believe in themselves.  Confident is contagious in a sense and so we are inclined to believe that those who are confident are worth our own confidence. Above that, we are taught to be tough, unapologetic, and unyielding.  In my own studies of social work this was a trait that was pushed with regularity - more still for women.  Don't be sorry you beat someone out for a job, don't be apologize for working harder and longer to get what you want.  Show no weakness.

So where is the balance for myself as both a strong leader and a strong Christian?  'Blessed are they meek for they will inherit the earth' (Matthew 5:5).  How then do I dominate at work while remaining meek?  While meek does not equal weak as many may believe, it also does not allow me to be unapologetic or unwielding.

I was faced with a situation that brought this argument in my mind to the forefront.  As I began my summer we were training a new Summer Staff and as I was driving home one day I had a bit of a conscience attack.  I teach in classrooms throughout the school year what we call 'personality profiles'.  In these profiles you learn not only how your personality type reacts to different social scenarios and how you function best - but to understand and appreciate that not everyone is in the same boat.

After going through these in training I was struck by how I handle one particular student in my year on staff.  After taking note of each of my students on staff's personality I realized that my in-your-face way of address issues with a certain student was not the way in which her personality allowed him to best receive my 'coaching'.

I drove home caught between whether or not to plow through the upcoming summer, using the excuse that as the head of the team I was just 'doing my job' or whether this was one of those defining moments in which I needed to seek a more restorative route.  We are faced with these decisions more than we like to admit, are we not?  Moments in which we have the opportunity to grow our character while it would be easiest to brush it off.

Once I had decided in my head that my direct approach had probably been hurtful to this student, I couldn't let it rest.  It ate at me.  Within an hour I got in touch with that student and owned it.  My harsh, to-the-point critiques.  My sarcasm.  The moments I had that chance to build up and instead chose to tear down, whether intentionally or by default of my delivery.  Often it is not the message but the wrapping that determines the effect.

In this moment of confession I sought to do something I've always respected in others.  I didn't just apologize, I asked for forgiveness.  There's a profound difference between doing your duty and saying you're sorry and actually seeking and requesting that the person forgive you.  This attitude takes you to yet another level of humility.  One I admit I haven't spent enough time in.  The desire of my heart was truly to be forgiven by the person and to change my heart and my actions to back that up.

What my professors failed to mention and perhaps to see themselves is that the level of respect you earn by owning up to your mistakes is higher than that achieved by intimidation.  Perhaps the best leader truly is the person who best serves those they seek to lead.  What an unlikely thought from a 'lion' personality.

At the ripe old age of 23 I have learned to few my experiences on and off the job as a growing experience.  The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know.

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