Which is Most Important?

Recently I read something that got my attention:  “Team leadership requires an understanding that impact is more important than ego. In American Christianity, especially in the megachurch, the ego needs of the senior pastor are off the charts, including me. Pastors have to let God lower their need for attention. The minute that impact becomes more important than ego, amazing things begin to happen” (Ray Johnston of Bayside Church in CA).  I had to ask myself, which is more important to me?  Impact or ego?  What would your answer be for you?  Impact or ego?  What would others say about me or you?  Impact or ego?

I’m hopeful that most would say that my life reflects a higher value on impact than ego.  In my mid-60’s, it is easier to measure than when you are in your mid-30’s.  For me, there is more of a track record.  More to measure.  Patterns can be noticed.  In other words, I’ve left a trail behind me.  What will people see when you have a long history behind you?  Impact or ego?

I have lost track of the number of times that leaders in business, church and non-profits have said something like this to me, “What you’ve done with your succession plan is so unusual.  I’ve never seen anything like it.”  And, I guess it is.  I didn’t do it to be unique or different.  I didn’t do it because I wanted someone to think I was extraordinary or special. I did it because it just seemed the right thing to do if I wanted to leave the maximum impact through my leadership in the organization that I started. 

I remember well the story that John Ortberg tells about playing Monopoly with his grandmother.  After working super hard to finally beat her and win the game, she said to young John, “It all goes back in the box.  All the cash.  All the properties.  All the accumulations of success.  It all goes back in the box” (here’s a 3 min. video version).  That’s the approach of someone who understands impact over ego.  It all goes back in the box.  

What are you doing in your leadership to maximize your impact?  Let me just suggest.  The greater you hope your impact to be, the more you will have to fight against your ego.  Those two are almost mutually exclusive. You can have great impact and a great ego.  But I would contend, your impact will soar upward in almost direct proportion to your ego going downward.  Humility is the doorway to maximum impact. Think about.  Better yet, work on increasing your impact by decreasing your ego.

Have a great week!  

Are You Cutting the Tall Poppies?

NOTE: An earlier version of this blog was posted on my www.DennisGingerich.com blog on July 5, 2019.

A while back, I read about a phenomenon called the “tall poppy syndrome.” Evidently, it used to be a common Australian farming practice to cut off any poppy that grows above the rest. Regrettably, this practice is not limited to just poppy farms. It’s a common practice most everywhere.  I’ve seen it in workplaces, politics, families, communities and churches.  

It seems to me, our shifting cultural climate toward boldly posting our unabashed opinions and rants on about any topic, has increased this phenomenon. I see a growing trend to attack, criticize, and resent anyone who has talent or achievements that sets them apart from others. This tendency extends to those who resent the efforts of leaders who challenge the status quo. Opponents of change initiatives often attempt to marginalize leaders by attacking their character and questioning their motives. If the messenger is flawed, then the message and vision they offer cannot be trusted. As disappointing as it is, these challenges come with the territory of leadership.

To be totally fair, this isn’t a brand new practice.  Apostle Paul of the first century was very familiar with this kind of character assault. He frequently encountered mean-spirited opposition from those who questioned his motive and his methods. We get a sense of the content and the intensity of these attacks from his response to those accusations in a letter he wrote to the Jesus-followers in the Greek city of Thessaloniki:  “For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.  For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed–God is witness–nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.”(1 Thessalonians 2:3-6).

The list of culpabilites against Paul was quite extensive and severe: error, sexual impurity, deceit, flattery, and greed. I don’t have space here to go into these allegations and how the Apostle responded to each one.  But a careful study of the scriptural text reveals that Paul persevered amidst these attacks and demonstrated the purity of the motives that guided his leadership.

Let’s bring it home.  Have you ever been “the tall poppy” at school, on a team, in the community, in your family, or at work? Did others try to “cut you down” because of your talent, idea, vision or position?  How did you respond? I wrote about one of my “tall poppy” experiences in another blog post. It was very uncomfortable.  It still makes me think twice before taking risks because I wonder how I’ll be perceived by my peers and colleagues.  At the very least, I’m still sometimes hesitant to share with others any of my bold ideas or plans.  How about you?  How have you responded?  How have those experiences tempered your audacious decisions and actions?

And finally, be brutally honest.  Have you ever been so filled with jealousy that you tried to cut the tallest poppy in your field? Maybe you pointed out that person’s flaws and failings to others.  Maybe you derided their idea or decision as ill-advised or just plain ridiculous.  Maybe you dug your heels in and refused to join the vision.  I’ve been there and done that.  I’ve learned you don’t make the world brighter by blowing out someone else’s candle.  And, I am also learning that the more I grow in my emotional and spiritual health, the easier I can celebrate the successes of others. 

A pivotal part of my leadership journey toward leaving a lasting legacy was to develop and implement a succession plan in the organization I founded. (That’s what this entire website is about: successful successions in business, non-profits and churches). I can now look back and see that the five years during the planning process and the ten years since the implementation of that succession plan has been a testing-ground experience for me to make significant progress in weeding out the tall-poppy syndrome from my first and foremost reaction reservoir.  

These days, I’m much more grateful for the beauty of tall poppies.  It adds such dimension and splendor to the field. 

QUESTION:  As you consider either your response to being the target of others attacks or your own resentment of others achievements, what is God nudging you about in your attitudes and motives? What adjustments is He prompting you to make?

If you are okay with it, you are welcome to share more in the comment section below.