Friday, March 14, 2008

Why I don't trust you

I’m not the most experienced leader around by any means, but I think I’ve noticed some things over the years that have proven true repeatedly. One of the strongest of these patterns is that there are some people doing amazing work that I just can’t feel good about. Something about them makes me very uncomfortable.
When I think a little more deeply I can see that in a lot of cases these are leaders who have drive, charisma, and passion that far exceeds my own; so maybe I’m intimidated or jealous. But I think it’s actually that I perceive them as lacking humility.
I don’t necessarily they are obviously arrogant. That’s thankfully rare. The issue is that they seem to always have an answer, a plan, and a certainty that makes them seem larger than life, and a little bit inauthentic.
Today I was reminded of the great transformation from Genesis 32 where Jacob (whose name means “schemer”) finally finds himself in a situation he can’t deke, duck, or dance his way out of. The guy who was always able to slip out of trouble is caught in the grip of someone who can’t be shaken off. After battling all night he is released to go on in life with a permanent limp and a new name, Israel (which means “He struggles with God”). It turns out that Israel is much more useful and deeply connected to God than Jacob ever was.
I’m nervous around leaders of any age who don’t have that limp; who never seem at a loss and always have complete confidence in their direction. They seem impenetrable, which is dangerous.
I’m drawn to those who have faced struggle, failure, and deep disappointment and continue on transformed. Not with the struggles all behind them, but with the quiet faith that doesn’t guarantee results or rely on their self assured abilities. I’ve always loved drawing out that sincerity in others.
I’m becoming a little bit afraid that one of the things I may find myself doing in the next few years is being with Jacobs as they become Israels. I much prefer arriving on the scene after the struggle and offering first aid and encouragement. Being present when the wounds are inflicted is scary, it may expose more of my own frailties than I want to display.

5 comments:

Bill Kinnon said...

Chris,
This is a very good post. Thanks for writing it.

chris wignall said...

Thanks Bill; it is something that has been percolating for a few years now and a couple interactions this week pushed me to post now.

Op-La! said...

An interesting post. However, isn't is possible that those who have confidence in their plans or decisions have built that through their struggles?

chris wignall said...

op-la! asks a very relevant question; my response is that there is a diffference between the humble confidence that comes from having been changed by struggle and the less mature self-confidence that is shown more often by those who haven't dealt with their own failure and dependance. The diffference may be subtle, and age is not always the predicator of change (I've met some older people who give me the same sense of lacking humility), but I'm increasingly convinced that this is a character trait in leadership that can't be trained, and only develops through personal struggle.

And it's fascinating to me that someone in San Jose read this post. How did you come across it?

chris wignall said...

got this commment by email from Mina Wahidi of compassion society


HELLO CHRIS,

MINA HERE FROM COMPASSION SOCIETY. FREE CLOTHING CENTRE AND A BIT OF FOOD for VULNERABLE PEOPLE.
I AM A BIT OF A LOUD MOUTH, ASKING FOR THINGS THAT I KNOW MY CLIENTS ARE STRUGGLING FOR...I FEEL OK WITH THIS AS I AM NOT ASKING FOR MYSELF.
I DON'T HAVE A LIMP, BUT MY MIND HAS BEEN THROUGH MANY UPS AND DOWNS..MY LIMP YOU CANNOT SEE...

WHEN I AM COMPLIMENTED ON THE WORK OUR CHARITY DOES, I ALWAYS SAY "I AM JUST THE CONDUCTOR...OF A LARGE ORCHESTRA" MY VOLUNTEERS AND SO MANY AGENCIES (LIONS CLUB, ROTARY, ETCC) HELP US. THIS IS WHERE HUMBLE COMES IN. GOD LIKES HUMBLE PEOPLE, SO I DO MY BEST TO PROMOTE MY VOLUNTEERS AND MAKE THEM FEEL PROUD.

THANKS!

MINA WAHIDI (FOUNDER/DIRECTOR)
www.compassionsociety.net