There is a truth that I urge you to apply to your life, and to also use as a lens through which to view your team.
Here it is: What you hold too tightly, you deform.
Our leadership roles come with many benefits. There are the titles, the privileges, the recognition, the authority, and usually, the public esteem. There is also the power to do good in the world and to change lives for the better. I have found in my life of leadership that love for my team has played a role and has fueled devotion to my work.
All of this appeals. All of it rivets us to our positions. Yet all of it can cause us to grasp our positions tightly.
To be fiercely invested in what you do and who you do it with is good. It is what many of us hope for in life. Yet to grasp our roles too tightly out of fear and insecurity, to let competition and a manic need to impress force us into a death grip on our positions, is cancer to great leadership and deforming of all we lead.
You’ve seen it as I have. A man has been promoted to a grand position. No one is more surprised than he is. The truth is that he has probably been promoted beyond his ability. Deep in his soul, he knows this. There were others more qualified. There is another role that would really be a better fit for him. Yet instead of engineering a change, he doubles down. He grasps his position all the more tightly. He drives his team to exhaustion. He sets unrealistic goals. He is jealous of his authority and privilege. He goes home tired, resentful, and empty.
Ponder this man for a moment. His steely grip on his role is deforming everything around him—his own soul, his family, his team, and even that part of his firm under his control. Nothing is better for his crazed attachment to his position. Nothing is achieving its best. And why? Because he leads the way a drowning man tries to swim—all panic and fear, all out of control and overly aggressive.
And so he sinks.
Here are some lessons for you. First, you want to be devoted to your task and your team but you also want to hold that role lightly. Be open to change. Be devoted to production, not position. Be given to people, not power. Know that your role isn’t forever, that everything is seasonal, particularly in the life of a gifted and called leader. Do your best where you are for as long as you are there, but don’t grasp position and power as though you are terrified by the thought of it slipping away.
Second, remember: The way you lead feeds a culture around you. You don’t want people on your team who also fear loss of power, drive their teams out of that fear, and are increasingly empty, angry, power-addicted souls. Keep in mind that they will become what they behold—in you.
Finally, this truth is a truth for all of life. What you hold too tightly, you deform. This is true of your friendships, your parenting, your relationship to money—even your dating life.
Invest yourself but don’t rivet yourself to a time, a place, or a position. Do your best, but don’t do that best in service of a panicky attempt to control what you cannot control.
My life philosophy: Be your best. Do good work. Invest in others. Trust God.