By Malaina Yoder - June 13, 2017
Posted in Partnerships, Stories from NMC
Think for just a moment about your Sunday morning coffee. The first thing I do on a Sunday morning, after receiving a smile from the kind person at the front door of NMC, is walk in a perfectly straight line from the open door to the coffee cart. Even as a person who lives in dependence on the coffee bean, I don’t often think of how those shining pots of brown goodness appear every Sunday morning, without fail. This last weekend, though, I saw one of my coffee heroes appear with a full pitcher to top off one of the pots.
The amount of gratitude I felt toward this extraordinary woman made me feel guilty for not previously considering the wonderful people who weekly enable my caffeine addiction. As my imagination ticked through the tasks that the coffee crew does, I was brought back to a conversation I had with Terry Linhart, congregant, professor and author of the book “The Self-Aware Leader.” If anyone encapsulated Terry’s idea of a lay leader, it was this woman who was unknowingly leading by quiet example.
“Anytime,” Terry said, “you influence someone else, even as a parent or a grandparent, you are taking a leadership role….informally or formally. I don’t want people to get hung up on [the word] ‘leader’ because they don’t have a title.”
I felt lucky to spend some time with Terry, talking about his understanding of leadership and the work it takes to be a strong leader. His book is for those who don’t typically read leadership books. It’s a tool for people to use to examine who they are and what it means for them to be a leader as grandparents, parents, guides, teachers and other leadership roles they fill.
The woman who was straightening the coffee table served as a leader to me. She demonstrated kindness and selflessness. She filled a ministry role that isn’t often noticed, even by those who she’s serving. It would serve me well to follow the example of my coffee hero, knowing that I tend to choose ministries that place me in the vicinity of a spotlight. She moved me toward self-examination just by living her life.
When it comes to leadership, self-examination is vital according to Terry. “Because we’re looking so far forward, we’re not looking back over our shoulder [into our blind spots]. We may be leaving a whole trail of wounded people behind us and not know it,” he said.
He sees his book as a resource for people beginning to understand how they operate as a leader. For him, the moment he knew this book needed to be written was in 2005, while he was standing in the lobby of the Grand Renaissance hotel, watching people mingle at the conference he was attending. He was struck by the fact that young leaders, coming out of high school and college, weren’t being coached in personal development.
Self-examination really is a coaching process. Terry said that the book isn’t a one-time thing. It’s something he goes through again and again, because it’s full of questions that prompt self-reflection and self-checks. Although he’s done a lot of thinking about tools for deeper self-reflection, one of his favorite things to examine is our conflict styles. Examining our cultural background is important in all self-examination, and conflict style is no exception.
The German-Mennonite background, for example, is quite good at the passive aggressive conflict style. The culture also carries an incredible emphasis on hard work. Good or bad, we recognize our culture and how it’s shaped us. In the end, both recognition and understanding are vitally important.
“We’re like Broadway performers that have practiced so long and worked on their stuff so long. They walk out onto the stage, and they’ve got one show. And the curtain is about to open, and they just whisper to themselves, ‘make it count.’” Terry went on to say that’s what it’s like to be a parent, an uncle or an aunt, or anyone else in leadership. You have one shot to make it count.
I’m not sure if the woman who I thanked for the Sunday morning coffee is consistently working to be a self- aware leader. I am, however, thankful she made me self-examine. I’m also grateful for the impact she’s making in my Sunday (and so is everyone who’s interacted with the caffeine-deprived version of me).
We have the opportunity to hear Terry talk about leadership and his book. In preparation, begin to think about the process of doing the hard work within yourself so that when the curtain closes, you can proudly take your bows and remember both the spectacular moments and the missed lines. We have this one beautiful life to perform on the world’s stage. Let’s do something spectacular with it.
Join us at 7:00 p.m. in the Fieldhouse on Wednesday, June 14, to hear Terry speak about life and leadership!