6 “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” ~ 1 Peter 5:6, (NRSVACE)
In the past several weeks I have been busy contemplating, discerning, and meditating on the direction our Lord will have me go. Many awesome things have happened to me over the last decade at Ascension Catholic School, namely the honor to teach such beautifully inquisitive children who are so much apart of all I have so labored for, for so long of a time. Now that I am transitioning away from Ascension School – (something that is not by my choice), I find it to be very interesting that it seems the farther I am pushed away from the school the closer I am drawn to Ascension Church; of which I am a parishioner and lay preacher, and now have been offered to become a Eucharistic Minister as well, one more thing with pleasure and pride I will be contemplating, discerning, and meditating on. So this Sunday this is what I came up with;
Relationships are like a flower, if you water them they will grow, and/or if you ignore them they will die. The same is true of the relationship we all have with our Father in heaven, trust in Him you will prosper, ignore Him you will not. I can honestly say with a clear conscience that I treated my children of Ascension like a delicate flower, pushing them to succeed, to learn Technology, English Language Arts, History, Science, Social Studies, Religion, and yes, Ethics. I taught them from the heart, with love, with respect, and with everything I have. I gave them all I have and more. I created and planned how to bring thoughtful and meaningful lessons which gave substance to their lives. For my ten years there I worked hard every day and answered the call every time I was needed by the Administration, Staff, Parents, and Church Community. I looked at my job, not as a job but a mission – vocation, and I love everything about it. I write these things because my last day was the best but saddest day for my students ranging in grade level from 2nd – 6th who showed me how much they also love and respect me in their tearful goodbyes. I’m not good with goodbyes and I’m not good with handling tears from children. I was also shown a great amount of love from their parents who also were sad and deeply moved, from their handshakes to their vows of support I know I have been supported by them. I know what it is like to be supported and I also know what it is like not to be supported.
I will not lie to you, my brothers and sisters, I am being very candid with my words here today, I am being very direct with my thoughts and feelings because my little children were truly hurting and the more I tried to make the day about them, they fought back and wanted it to also be about me too. This is what real relationships are about and it was voiced perfectly by the one child who I did not think would ever say it. “This day is about you too Mr. Stark!” Emotions ran high and I urged them all to remember all that I did for them and go out into the world and be amazing to others. When it was said and done I was told by my God Mother, “That it’s not an easy thing to leave but it is a process of mourning for both you and the children.” When she said that to me I was truly surprised how true it is. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I will be mourning for a while and so will they – all my precious children of Ascension. But again, my brothers and sisters that is what real relationships are when separation happens, there will be mourning. I will greatly miss them and I know they will greatly miss me as well. What follows hopefully will be yet another opportunity to serve God’s people, meet them where they are and honor them as God has so honored me.
*The rest of this post is dedicated to the topic of leadership because that is what we all eventually become if we follow God if we listen to His divine words and if we discern what we are being directed to do. I chose this topic because it is at the heart of all my decisions I had made over the course of my life and good leaders build true relationships that are honored and cherished.
RELATIONSHIPS BUILT BY TRUE LEADERS
I recently found this book from one of my favorite Christian Writers and Pastors, Dr. John C. Maxwell who wrote, “How Successful People Lead“. In it, he describes five levels of leadership;
- Level 1 – Position: “It’s a Great Place to Visit, but You Wouldn’t Want to Live There.
- Level 2 – Permission: “You Can’t Lead People until You Like People.
- Level 3 – Production: “Making Things Happen Separates Real Leaders from Wannabes.
- Level 4 – People Development: “Helping Individuals Leaders Grow Extends Your Influence and Impact.
- Level 5 – The Pinnacle: “The Highest Leadership Accomplishment Is Development Other Leaders to Level 4.
Maxwell writes, “In all my years that I’ve taught leadership, there has been one lecture that I have been asked to give more often than any other – from West Point to Microsoft headquarters and in countries all around the world. Why is it so popular? That lecture explains how successful people lead and provides a game plan for learning how to become a leader. It’s titled “The 5 Levels of Leadership,” and it has been used to train leaders in companies of every size and configuration, from small business to Fortune 100 companies. It has been used to help nonprofit organizations understand how to lead volunteers. And taught in more than 120 countries around the world. The concept is tested and proven. It also instructs people in the use of several tried -and-true techniques that will help them become successful at leadership. Looking at leadership as a series of levels that can be gained through targeted actions has many benefits.” Maxwell, (2013)
He clearly outlines in this small simple book the levels of Leadership and as I read it I smiled because I could see my own growth in each level and where I think I am…. But he takes these levels and puts them in sharp focus. “Level 1 – Position: People follow you because they have to.” Maxwell, p.5. I know people in leadership that have been in leadership for a long time and have never passed this level. They lead out of fear! They lead out of making threats! They lead out of their own insecurities! In short, these people should not be leaders… they should be put in a nice office in the corner of the company they work for that has no contact with anyone else ever! I feel sorry for these types of leaders because they are so afraid of failure they take needless chances and lie about the reasons they made the decisions they did rather than, to be honest about the whole mess in the first place. People like this say they are Christians but their actions say otherwise. Level one leaders are, “Positional leadership is based on the rights granted by position and title. There is nothing wrong with having a leadership position. Everything is wrong with using position to get people to follow you. Position is a poor substitute for influence.” Maxwell, p.5.
As the Director of Technology, I have seen it all with the Principals I have served, five in total. I have always had problems with the ones who think they know more about technology than me… again, there is nothing wrong with having some knowledge of a subject, everything wrong with saying you are the expert when you’re not. I once told one of these principals that money, position, popularity, and/or power is not what drives me. What drives me is the children I serve, because I am here for them not you. What I didn’t say was that I love God above all, He drives me, He alone tells me what I need to do, how to do it, when to do it, and who I am there for. God is centered in my life and I promised Him many years ago that I would follow Him, go where he told to, and help His people on their level, meeting them where they are! Had this principal looked at the community which she served like that we might have been able to do great things together, but instead this principle took pleasure in the power bestowed upon them and it was evident in what they said, how they said it, what they did and how they did it. I had also years before told this same principle that serving this community of parents is 90% perception in that how they see you. What I did not say or explain is that when I say, “see you”, what I really meant comes from an African tribes definition of these two words minus the first of three words put together, as explained best by Africaknows.com,
“The Zulu greeting, ‘Sawubona’ means ‘I see you’ and the response ‘Ngikhona’ means ‘I am here’. I love the depth of meaning that African languages carry. Inherent in the Zulu greeting and in the grateful response, is the sense that until you saw me, I didn’t exist. By recognizing me, you brought me into existence. A Zulu folk saying clarifies this, ‘Umuntu ngumuntu nagabantu’, meaning ‘A person is a person because of other people.'”
Challenge Question: “What would this world be like if we all respected each other on this level?”
3 “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.” ~ Philippians 2:3, (NRSVACE)
Maxwell’s levels graduate in depth, for instance, “Level 2 – Permission: ‘People follow you because they want to.‘” p.7. In this level, you have built trust with those you manage. Leadership on this level are not about preserving their own position instead they are most concerned with understanding their employees, volunteers, and/or subordinates. They take an interest in all of their people’s lives, which includes those employees they don’t like. Isn’t this what Jesus preached about? Nothing is done from selfish ambition covered up with conceit! Leadership is a selfless position, one that every leader must emulate the example of our savior, the Good Shepard, our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Maxwell’s level three is how I felt for a long time until I had the honor to attend the CMAST/LMU TL Program. “Level 3 – Production: ‘People follow you because of what you have done for the organization‘”. Under my God Mothers leadership, things got done, morale improved, badly needed funds came into our school, turnover went done dramatically, and our school had momentum. We made a good team, one that moved the school forward! It wasn’t about her or me or any single stakeholder rather we all worked for the success this included, teachers, office staff, parents, and administration! Our school was happy and healthy! But once I had completed the CMAST program I saw the shift in how some people looked at me, how parents began to treat me, see they all saw my efforts in leadership as Maxwell’s Level 4, “People Development: ‘People follow you because of what you have done for them.'” p.9. As a teacher leader I developed other teachers to be leaders, I supported them and their ideas in more of direct way. I began supporting parents in ways I never thought I could, all of which was a connection which grew and gained momentum through offering classes they needed that would in the end help them help their children. See their perception of me was that of a leader who cares about them and their children’s future success, the select teachers felt the same way. I shifted into a leader who changed lives, touched hearts, build a lifelong respect that will be remembered despite the actions of those of my colleagues who are trying to whip all that goodness away. I lead with God, with relationships that hopefully will last a lifetime, again, emulating Jesus Christ.
Challenge Question: “What would this world be like if every leader had an honest to God open door policy?”
31 “He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’” ~ Matthew 13:31-32, (NRSVACE)
I like to think I have sowed a mustard seed within my children of Ascension and when they grow they will be the strongest and greatest people. So much so that other people will want to follow them because of what they, (my tiny children), have done for them. With God’s blessings, all my children and that of their parents I pray will mourn and overcome, build and love, I pray they become beautiful human beings that do good always. Remember the words of wisdom our Lord Jesus Christ has said, meditate on them, and then discern your own path as I have done.
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