Leadership is Not a Popularity Contest

Christ-Renews-color-logo Leadership is Not a Popularity ContestMatthew 10:34-36

 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”

I can remember back to my interview for a Resident Assistant position at Elmira College. I was asked why I wanted to be an RA and all I could come up with was “because it’s such an important position.” I knew I’d blown the interview but I thought maybe I’d get lucky and get offered a position.

When I didn’t get it, I knew why.  Deep down inside I knew I wanted the job for the wrong reasons. Getting the job would be pure validation – power, status and respect. It wouldn’t have been about being there for the young men on my floor. It’s a blessing I didn’t get that job.

The Pursuit For Respect Continued…

Can’t say I learned my lesson, though. What followed were many other interviews for leadership positions and several supervisory jobs, culminating in my promotion to a Branch Manager position with my current employer. It was definitely an important role and one I wasn’t ready before, mainly because I’d yet to shake off the attitudes of my past. It was still all about being respected and feeling important.

Turns out the title didn’t earn me automatic respect or a built-in importance. Nor should it have.

Within a few months, I’d been through the wringer and was grateful to step back into something better suited to my unique set of skills. Still another opportunity presented itself years later and I felt I’d learned enough lessons to be able to succeed the second time around. I got the job and set out to erase the memories of the past.

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For a second time, I wasn’t quite up to the task. Things had gone better, for certain, but I again knew I had my priorities mixed up. I was starting to, ever so slowly, become a servant leader but much of the job was still about me. I was too busy trying to get my work done while not understanding all the people who relied on me were my work. A company reorganization landed me back in a smaller role and I excelled in that role because I did make my people my work.

Learning How to Lead

After having much success in that role, I received another opportunity. It wasn’t a promotion but it was a move outside for comfort zone. I was going to need to be more of a servant leader than I’d ever been before. I would need to serve my employees, my customers, and my vendors – often simultaneously.

Could I put it all together?

Learning the job was more about conquering fear than anything else. It was a great deal about learning how to selflessly serve in a principled, disciplined way. My professional growth would not have been possible without the spiritual growth that was happening at the same time.

Christ Renews His Parish taught me how to start calling on the Holy Spirit to carry me through the anxious moments. Being observant of my feelings and moods has shown me when I’m my best. I know I can’t stay behind my desk for long periods of time or I withdraw. I need to be up and about and I need to get in front of my customers because they energize me.

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Most of all, I’ve come to understand that I work in a sometimes unpopular profession but it doesn’t really matter what other people think. My job is to pursue the truth and help people grow. My work is becoming a ministry and, as such, there will those who approve of me and what I do and those who don’t.  I just remember the words of Matthew and I know that’s it ok if I’m not the most popular guy because there’s a reward waiting for me when it’s all said and done.

Todd K Marsha is a Catholic husband and father living in suburban Kansas City. Through his writing charism he tells the powerful story of his conversion to the faith, his triumphs through God's grace, and his continuing struggle to live a more Christ-like life.

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