I was blessed today to sit and listen to some of the country’s best speakers on leadership. Many talked about what it takes to be a leader, or the things leaders shouldn’t do if they want to be effective. They all made good points; most were very engaging, or at least funny. I can use much of the advice I was given, but one idea in particular stood out to me. The presenter spoke about how our society has a misconception about leaders. Everyone thinks of leaders as extroverted people. Natural leaders, we believe, are people who love the spot light or get charged up by being in front of others. There are people who are naturally better at speaking to crowds, or making impossible tasks seem achievable with an uplifting speech. Some people are the big, bold, inspirational types. But if statistics are true, half the population is introverted. The thought of being in front of people, or giving a speech to a group, even a small group, makes half the population run for the doors. So does this mean that anyone in a leadership role must have an extroverted personality? It turns out many gifted leaders are not extroverts. The speaker gave us many examples of people with whom she had spoken, who occupy major roles in government, business and even the church. So what makes people who have a natural inclination toward solitude step out and risk being pushed far beyond their comfort zone? The key was the cause they fought for. Every one of these leaders believed in something so completely that they took a great risk, and stepped with quiet strength into a leadership role.
This made me think of the parents I see stepping out on behalf of the children they love. Some might see these parents as over-zealous, creating programs which take schools or even churches out of their comfort zones. Many think they are putting too much pressure on everyone for the inclusion of their kids, or that they should just take what the “system” is willing to give.
Several years ago, I had the great privilege of attending a meeting with the president of Biola University, Dr. Clyde Cook. Dr. Cook has since passed away, but at the time he was on a retirement tour around the country. One of the stops was at the town in which we lived, and since my wife’s family had been long-time friends of Dr. Cook’s – and my wife attended Biola – we eagerly signed up to attend the event.
Dr. Cook’s story is a remarkable one. Born in Hong Kong to missionaries, his family was imprisoned in internment camps during World War II. As a young man, he earned his Bachelor’s from Biola, his Master’s from Talbot Theological Seminary, and his Doctor of Missiology at Fuller Theological Seminary. In between his university stints, he took part in missionary trips to more than 72 countries. He also set up theological extension programs in the Philippines. In 1982, he became President of Biola University, and during his 25-year tenure as president, he took a small, struggling college and transformed it into one of the premier Christian colleges in the nation.
Dr. Cook was a very humble man with a great sense of humor. He was also a terrific storyteller. At the gathering we attended were several older couples who had joined Dr. Cook through the years on numerous mission trips. As they related their stories about these trips, I learned about many amazing things all of them had done. While I listened, I couldn’t help but think, “Where are the leaders of tomorrow? What are they doing right now?”
The reason I wonder about the future of leaders in our nation is because I’ve seen so many so-called leaders who have fallen prey to traps and snares along the way. I know it’s far too easy for me to sit and judge, as I watch them from the sideline. But I witness many of them walking the straight and narrow for a little while. Some of them even accomplish great things, or start great movements. And while I’m sure that they all had the greatest of intentions, many of them lose focus and end up ruining any good that they might have done.
I’ve been thinking of two lines lately that pretty much say the same thing.The first is an old proverb, originally of French origin and later quoted by the famous Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw.“The more things change,” he wrote, “the more they remain the same.”The other comes from the once popular songwriters Simon and Garfunkel.In the classic song “The Boxer” you’ll find the paradoxical observation that “…after changes upon changes we are more or less the same.”
When you have two children navigating the complexities of sixth and eighth grades, respectively, your mind wanders back to your own time in Junior high school.I guess they call it “middle school” now, but when I was walking those halls, I spent a lot of my time trying to impress both my friends and the young ladies who caught my fancy.A lot has changed between now and then – but not when it comes to the pursuit of “trying to be cool.”
Kids still have phrases like “cool” or “hot” but they all use other jargon that I’m neither familiar with nor even really understand. These sayings seem to run in packs just like children who use them. I’ve had to tell my kids from time to time that their mom and I don’t think some of those “sayings” are appropriate.Call me a censor, but we’ve had to ban certain phrases from use.
Regrettably, I can remember back to that time in my own life when I used the word “retarded” as slang. Saying something was “retarded” was a way of appearing cool and fitting in with the popular crowd.The irony of it all was that refusing to expand my vocabulary past what was “cool” was anything but – and in retrospect, was downright foolish.
There is little you can say to a fourteen year-old about life that he or she will listen to.
From their perspective, they know everything about everything or so they’ll tell you. This is just the nature of growing up.
They feel invincible at that age.
But what if you are fragile or disabled? Does it cause you to deal with your teen years differently?
I haven’t yet come across a book that can guide you through these years for those who are what I call “off the charts.”
When I speak of “charts” I think of going to the doctor’s office when your child is young and the physician measures their head size, weight and height. He then offers you a point of comparison to other children of similar age. They call this the percentile.
I have a twelve-year-old truck. I don’t drive it every day because it is a huge, diesel-guzzling monster with a 36-gallon gas tank; it hurts just to fill up. We use it for camping, getting animal feed, and, as anyone who’s owned a truck surely knows, to help friends and relatives move. It is long paid for, so I don’t want to replace it or get something else. When it breaks down like it did last month, however, it is so expensive to fix that it really can break the bank. The auto mechanic gave me a price, then called twice more to tell me the truck needed some more things fixed. By the time I got it back, it cost me way more than I had hoped or could afford. Well, this month it broke down again! This time I had it towed to our house. I thought maybe I could figure out what was wrong and fix it myself. As of right now, it’s too early to tell if I figured it out. I have a part, though, and as soon as it warms up a little I will put it in and see if I was right. I told my wife there was a 50/50 chance that I knew what was wrong, so I have a twinge of uncertainty about actually fixing it. Then again, the mechanic who was supposedly a professional had to “fix” my car three times to get it right. I know it’s just my truck, but we expect an expert to know what is going on. That applies not only to our cars but also to the doctors who are supposed to help us figure out what is going on with the ones we love.
A while ago, I was talking to a mom whose child had just been to the doctor. Her child had experienced what seemed like a significant medical issue, yet all the doctor could tell her was “I don’t know”. I really hate when a doctor says that! All those years of schooling, residency, and who-knows-how-long seeing patients, and all you can tell me is, “I don’t know”. When I go to the doctor I have some expectations of knowledge on his or her part, but am I expecting too much? This doctor studied human anatomy, diseases, and disorders, literally from head to toe. Probably he had to memorize more about my foot than I ever knew about my whole body. But how can this doctor whom I, or my kids, see infrequently actually know us? Yes, he might know what ails all men, but this doesn’t mean all his poking around is going to fix everything, or cause him to truly understand my child.