Sunday, July 11, 2004

The servant

This morning's sermon was simply convicting! Pastor is going through John and we have come on chapter 13, the passage where Jesus washing the disciple's feet is recorded. It was convicting and also thought provoking.

One of the things that came to mind is what I have seen and experienced in Civil Air Patrol. On the surface, it being a volunteer program, you might expect to see a servant-like attitude abounding among CAP members. I won't go so far as to say it doesn't exist but I will settle for saying that I have seen many a cadet or senior member who is only there so they can feel important, go on a power trip or even just look fancy. It can be a dog-eat-dog world when things are arranged as a chain of command structure.

The problem that I run into is the fact that one of the most important principals of leadership is effective delegation. That is, being able to task others under you efficiently enough to get something done. Of course, there's nothing wrong with that. I will not deny its importance. The following anecdote, though, will perhaps give you a better idea of the "problem" I have running through my head.

It was little more than a year ago and it was spring. The wing (state-wide) conference was almost concluded and it was morning--breakfast time to be exact. All the cadets had helped themselves and there was little to do but wait for the next activity on the schedule. At least, that's what we thought. There was one particular cadet--a colonel (the highest grade achievable in the program) who had found a way to keep busy. He lived in the area and had just come from home so he didn't have luggage to carry around. Even so, I don't think many of us were prepared for what we saw out of him. Throughout breakfast, he stood there behind the table of food and kept it all in order and made sure everything was set out. I had finished eating and noticed, as I walked out the door, that he had now finished managing the food. He was now putting everything away and cleaning up after us! As if that wasn't bad enough, after ten minutes outside, who should I see walking past me than this colonel carrying a black plastic garbage bag with all of the leavings to the dumpster!

I remember thinking to myself at the time that I would never see the like again!

It was such a departure from the norm. He was an unquestioned, highly decorated leader stooping to take the garbage out! I was more than a little impressed by what I saw. I know some others who have seen him do similar things with mixed opinions about the wisdom of his actions. Some would consider it a foolish action--a complete mistake. They would argue that it undermines his leadership. They believe that a leader who doesn't consistently delegate is failing to keep up a respectable image. While I agree that there are some merits to this argument I disagree that dirty work is completely out of a leaders job list.

All in all, it's a tough call. I know there are things this person could have done--like delegate--but I just can't condemn him for doing it because I know him to be a strong Christian and he did it to bring glory to God's name. He has earned a lot of respect from subordinates for his selflessness, but I think it hurts him in the eyes of his superiors--mainly because I don't think they realize how much it actually increases people's respect for him.

A puzzle to be sure. In my mind, every situation is different and you can't make an across-the-board judgment call. On the one hand, it is refreshing to see someone just being himself for once and not trying to impress anyone. On the other hand, is it always a bad thing to be concerned with your image? That may sound like a really weird questions, but again, this is all about context. After all, I wouldn't want my superior to think I can't keep up a professional image. So yes, I say again: It's all about context.

Now for the the ultimate challenge.

For a Christian, true leadership in a military setting requires a beautiful and theoretically impossible blend of two qualities.

First, a firm commitment to customs and standards with a thorough understanding of leadership principals (yes, that includes delegation), his position and the job. Second, a profound ability to live serventhood!

Need I say more?
<< Home 1 Comments:
Blogger Jason Frank. said...

I would commend this man for doing that. Despite what other men might think of him, he is being Christlike in his work.

As to worrying about our image ... well, you probably don't know want to know what I think about that. Just look at me! ;)

10:48 AM, July 24, 2004  

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