In Lead more gently

Making private decisions in a public arena

For the last 30 years of my life I have been in ministry and non-profit leadership.  This is “public arena” leadership.  Sometimes (not always) it feels like I am in a circus act with a ringmaster cracking the whip.  This is not a healthy place to be.

Let me give you an example.  Perfectly rational choices by others are seen in a different light for those of us in public leadership.  Just going on vacation can be a minefield – when others go off to rest people celebrate with them.  When those of us in ministry go off on vacation sometimes people want us to explain and justify all the reasons why and some people judge our choices.  As I mentioned in last week’s blog, these judgments are hard for me.   On the one hand I always try to be respectful of other’s opinions, but on the other hand, like everybody else I crave the right to make choices for my life.

If, like me, you find yourself having to make private decisions in a public arena maybe you will find this helpful.

In order to remain healthy and sound leaders, I believe we need to come to terms with the following:

  • We are human.  Before being leaders, we are people – with the same needs as those we lead.
  • In order to lead effectively we need to take care of ourselves.  This includes times of privacy.  Even if the decisions we make about our private affairs are out there for the public to see, we should afford ourselves the right to make our decisions without feeling compelled to explain our every move.
  • We definitely can’t please all of the people all of the time so let’s prayerfully consider our choices and then give ourselves the right to celebrate them.

Every one of us, no matter how small or large our leadership influence, is a follower too.  For those we follow, lets:

  • Afford them some space to make personal choices.
  • Encourage them to make choices that help them take care of themselves.
  • Validate them whenever we can.

Being in leadership has its challenges.  And yes, I’m aware that a lack of privacy often times goes with the territory so hopefully I am not whining too much here.  But, this I know; most leaders are their own worst critics – let’s not add to their burden by setting ourselves up as judge, jury and executioner.

Question: How do you feel when people make public judgments about your private choices? What are healthy ways to respond to this? To enter into the conversation, click here.

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