In Lead more gently/ Purpose

What two leaders learnt from a toilet

He beamed as he told me about the toilets.  It is not a subject I typically discuss with others, let alone an African man.  Yet, there I was listening intently and beaming along with him, as proud as I’ve ever been.

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The toilets were needed in Madutle, a rural village straddling the border of South Africa and Botswana.   It would have been easy for us to instruct a professional builder to move into the village, build the toilet facilities in a week and be out of there.  Instead, two pastors from the village church took up the challenge to get this building done.  They became the foreman-builders and the villagers became their co-laborers.  Together they built the much needed toilet facilities. A professional builder would have been embarrassed at how long it took for this small building to be erected, but with this project, time was not the point.

What was the point?

The point was leadership and community and self reliance and achievement and a list of other qualities far more important than time.

Here are leadership lessons learnt by two Pastors from a rural village in Africa.  These lessons translate very well into any setting, regardless of whether it is in rural Africa or urban sprawl:

  • Take ownership.  If you want to lead well you need to take ownership of the problem, process or position you are facing.  It’s no good to shout comments and instructions from the sidelines.  Rather, leaders internalize, roll up their sleeves and adopt the cause as their own.
  • Investigate multiple solutions.  Leaders do not stubbornly see only one way.  Great leaders seek input from others, are willing to really listen and diligently weigh up the options available.
  • Develop community.  God seldom calls us to work alone.  Leaders who lead well gather people around them to get the job done.  They know that it is in a group setting that new leaders emerge and where they can be developed.  Great leaders are always developing new leaders.
  • Build resilience. In most God-given tasks, the actual task is not as important as the process.  God is always at work developing and molding us.  In the leadership process, we typically face challenges that are intentionally designed to stretch and to grow us.  In the process of leading, great leaders develop resilience within themselves as well as in others.
  • Deliberately pray. Pray at the outset.  Pray in the middle.  Pray at the end.  Pray. Godly leadership is always about pleasing our Father – never about pleasing ourselves.

Meeting needs

The block of toilets in Madutle serve a very practical need but these toilets serve a much greater purpose.  They stand as a tribute to two pastors who took ownership and in doing this they did not build toilets but rather, they built people.

“But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.  And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you”  … And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”  – 1 Corinthians 12: 20,21 & 26

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