I did much more listening than talking in this particular conversation, but that’s not what made it sad or disturbing.
I was visiting with someone considerably older than I and someone who is close to death. This person is aware that death is near, and is, for the most part, at peace with this knowledge.
So I listened to quite a few stories. Like most of us, this person tells stories about success and accomplishment. This person has quite a history of leadership.
This person also has quite a history of brokenness. Raised by parents, various counties, and extended family, this person fought through this adversity to, as the stories tell it, successfully raise 4 kids.
I really wanted to find a story of healthy relationship or hope, so I asked, “You’re obviously quite a leader. Where did you learn your leadership abilities?”
It didn’t take 2 seconds before a rather sharp, strong, “Myself!” was blurted out as an answer.
Which really saddens me.
I don’t know exactly where I rank on any leadership scale, but I know the value of leadership. I’m pretty sure I’ve learned and grown a great deal in my leadership abilities since my first ministry job in 1984.
A lot of that learning and growth has been pushing and stretching and trying and failing. Myself.
But almost everything I’ve tried and failed (or succeeded) and most everything that has pushed, pulled, or stretched me has some source outside myself.
I believe recognizing this makes me a better leader.
Whatever leadership I have gained, it has all come in knowing that I am, at the same time, following someone else.
So, while there is an “I” in leadership, there is no “me.”
I hope I find the grace to offer this the next time I have a conversation with this person.