Leaders As Weight Carriers

By: Brian Harris

I’ve been thinking about leadership lately – perhaps not too surprising as I have a book coming out on the topic, Stirrers and Saints.

There are so many possible answers to the question, “What do leaders do?” but the one I have been pondering is “leaders carry weight on behalf of others.”

Let me elaborate.

A few months back I was chatting to a school principal who was a little ruffled because a staff member had exploded at him for making a one off change to the school program. It required the exploding staff member to teach a class during a slot they thought they would be free. They would still get a free spot – just later in the day.

“That’s not going to work,” the staff member had yelled. “When am I supposed to prepare that lesson. I had been going to do it in my free period. How can you be so inconsiderate. You’ve forgotten what it’s like to be in the trenches. You’ve no right to spring things on us like that.”

“That response is not really on, is it?” I commented, and then asked, “How did you reply?”

The principal then said, “Everything inside of me wanted to shout straight back: ‘Oh boo hoo to you. Do you have any idea of what I’m carrying? You haven’t even asked about the crisis that’s required me to make this change – and since when has it been such a big deal to ask a professional to make a minor adjustment? Get a life and start dealing with real problems. Oh, and remember who’s the boss. It’s not you!”

And then he smiled and said, “But of course I didn’t say anything like that. I just took a deep breath and said, ‘I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but for a whole range of difficult reasons, I do need you to do this at this time. But I am sorry that it throws your plans out.”

“How did you feel about giving such a meek reply,” I asked?

“I was actually very angry… but what use would it have been to throw my anger into the mix. You know how many problems we’ve faced lately. I don’t usually have to work at this level of detail, reassigning who is teaching when, but it’s been an abnormal time. I’m one of the first to arrive and am usually the last to leave. I’ve often asked myself why I’m doing this. But then I remind myself that someone has to, and I am fortunate enough to be a little stronger than many of the others. Leaders have to carry weight on behalf of others. That’s how I serve the team. By dealing with the difficult issues.”

Leaders Tackle The Hard Stuff

He was spot on. We often talk about servant leadership, and how the best leaders lead on behalf of others. While toxic leaders narcissistically get everything to revolve around them, great leaders are there to serve the interest of the group. While they strategically think about how to shape the future, on a day to day basis they usually deal with the difficult issues being faced. The most junior staff member can work with a delighted customer lavishing praise on the group, but comes a serious complaint and you immediately look up the ladder.

I remember a discouraged leader saying to me, “I only get to work with the difficult problems. I hear other team members moaning about what they have to deal with and think, ‘If only the issues I faced were so simple. Why do I always get the tough problems?’”

“You do know the answer to your question,” I queried?

He nodded in reply. “Yup – it’s because leaders work with problems. We carry weight for the group.”

We often think that leadership is about glamour and privilege. And there is extra recognition that is given to the work of leaders. For all that, leadership is primarily about serving the greater good of the group we lead. It’s why Jesus is so emphatic in Matt 20:25-28: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,  and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—  just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Those four little words “not so with you” say so much. Those who lead while being led by Jesus are invited to a different style of leadership. Leadership that is modelled on Jesus – who did not come to be served but to serve – takes a very different journey. It’s leadership that’s willing to do the difficult things. It’s leadership on behalf of others. It’s leadership that carries weight. It’s leadership that is desperately needed today.


Article supplied with thanks to Brian Harris.

About the Author: Brian is a speaker, teacher, leader, writer, author and respected theologian who is founding director of the AVENIR Leadership Institute, fostering leaders who will make a positive impact on the world.

Feature image: Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

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