Learning to Lead

Leadership can be extremely overwhelming to me. For most of my life, I have thought of myself as a shy, quiet person who is most content to be left alone, with the exception of a few close friends. I never saw myself as someone who is capable of doing big things or having any significant influence on others. I enjoyed growing up on a farm for many reasons, but especially because it gave me so much time to be alone. In high school and college, I enjoyed working with electronics for the same reason. I always wanted a family and I looked forward to being a dad, but I pictured myself with a couple children and a quiet, easy going life. One day I found myself working for a church and doing something I love - working with electronics. Along with that came the responsibility of leading a team of people. At home, I now have 4 children and life is anything but quiet and easy going.

As I stated above, leadership can be overwhelming. It can seem that there are so many things to be mindful of; so many things to have to learn and master; so many ways in which I can fail. I often wonder if I am really up to the task. I doubt myself and I find myself desiring to find escape from it all. But there is something else that I find brewing inside of me as well.

Over time I have learned that, while I am most comfortable being alone, that is not where I find my joy or purpose. I am made for much more than that. While trying to lead my team or my family can still be overwhelming, I have found that it is when I most engage in valuing others and invest in the people around me that I find the most value in myself. That is where I learn the most, and that is where God does something rich and rewarding inside my own heart.

I fail often. There is still much I don’t know, and I am still trying to figure out how to apply what I do know. But the thing that I am learning to value is the simple idea of investing in others. I don’t have to know all the answers and I don’t have to do everything perfectly. But there are a few things that I try to do well and that I want my team to do well.
 

  1. Share what you know. There is a phrase that I picked up from Andy Stanley and the staff at North Point Community Church: “Pour what’s in your cup into someone else’s cup.” I’ve heard Andy also say that, “I can’t promise to fill your cup, but I can promise to empty mine.” In my opinion, this is the biggest responsibility of a leader and it is the one thing that I am most trying to implement into our team. You don’t have to know everything, but share what you do know. Help someone else grow.

  2. Have a desire to learn. This is the reverse of sharing what you know. This requires a posture of humility and curiosity. Always be looking for ways that you can learn from others. Keep asking, “How can I make it better?”. You add value to someone else by asking for feedback and genuinely having a desire to learn from that person. Also, I believe that a culture where everyone has the desire to learn is extremely healthy. It’s attractive, encouraging, uplifting, rewarding, and productive.

  3. Always come back to “why”.  It is very easy to get so wrapped up in the tasks at hand that you forget why you are doing them to begin with. In the world of church production there are a lot of tasks that need to be done. If we forget that we are ultimately here to serve people and to help people engage in a relationship with God and relationship with others, then we are missing the point. What we do is a lot of fun and it requires attention to detail, but there is a higher purpose that should be the driving force behind it all. If that purpose is lost, then the value and the motivation are both lost. Our team will develop a selfish mindset, driven by our own pride and entertainment rather than investing in others. May we never forget that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. It is important that we contribute to that with a servant’s heart and with open hands.

  4. Laugh together. One of  the most valuable things I learned from my dad is not to take myself too seriously. There is a phrase that we are trying to embed within our culture that goes, “Strive for the ideal, give grace to the real”. We want to be a culture that strives for excellence. We want to do the very best we can with what we have and always be pushing each other and ourselves to make things the best they can be. But we also want to be a culture that can laugh at our mistakes and not get bent out of shape when things don’t go perfectly. Because, the reality is, things are not going to go perfectly. We are all people who are in process of learning. There are many moving parts that have to work together and the stars are not going to align for us all the time. So the bottom line is, position yourself to learn from your mistakes, but don’t take yourself too seriously in the process. Do your best, give it your all, learn from your mistakes, but give grace to yourself and to others in the midst of mistakes.  People have got to be more important than the product. So be helpful, but be kind and laugh together.

I have a lot to learn as a leader and even this list is a work in progress. If I can learn to get these 4 things right and instill them into the culture of our team, I will have contributed something great, not only to an organization, but to the lives of those around me. And it is ultimately investing in the people around me that really matters.

 

NICK WARKENTIEN
Video Engineer, Wilmington Campus