LEADING WITH A LIMP
Leading with a Limp by Dan Allender has been a transformational book for me. I’ve been on a journey over the last five years of greater emotional health. I have also had a number of low points in my ministry. Times of self-doubt and re-evaluation. Periods of deep grief and betrayal. Mountaintop experiences have been few and far between.
If you are finding ministry hard or are struggling with your inadequacies for the task before you, reading this book will be very beneficial. Allender is very open about his personal struggles and has a good eye for the common struggles of leadership and especially spiritual leadership. This book has been used by the Holy Spirit more than once in my life to give me direction during difficult seasons in my ministry and personal spiritual journey.
SOME GEMS FROM THE BOOK:
“A good leader will, in time, disappoint everyone. Leadership requires a willingness to not be liked, in fact, a willingness to be hated. But it is impossible to lead people who doubt you and hate you. So the constant tug is to make the decision that is the least offensive to the greatest number and then to align yourself with those who have the most power to sustain your position and reputation in the organization.” Leading with a Limp: p. 14
“The assumption is that parents have already dealt with their children’s character issues or that the church, synagogue, or other religious institution will take care of shaping ethics and personal values. The academy is for content and practical skills. This is a problem because we in academia fail to address the narcissism that drives many leaders. We enable troubled and manipulative men and women to devour their colleagues, their staffs, and their congregations simply because they’ve passed exams, written papers, matriculated through a degree, and gained the credentials to be called professionals.” – Leading with a Limp: pp. 17-18
“What I am about to write is ridiculous. It won’t happen in the public and secular realms. It could possibly happen in faith-based contexts, but it is far from the norm…We should bless men and women who have done their level best to escape leadership but who have been compelled to return and put their hand on the tiller. We should expect anyone who remains in a formal leadership context to experience repeated bouts of flight, doubt, surrender, and return. Why would this be God’s plan? Why does God love the reluctant leader? Here is one reason: the reluctant leader is not easily seduced by power, pride, or ambition.” Leading with a Limp: p. 18
“The reluctant leader detoxifies power by empowering others to bring their vision, passion, and gifts to the enterprise. She creates an environment of open debate that honors differences and where no one fears reprisal.” – Leading with a Limp: p. 19
THE COST OF LEADERSHIP
“Every leader must count the cost of leadership, and the cost includes six realities: crisis, complexity, betrayal, loneliness, weariness, and glory. No one escapes these twists and turns in the valley.” – Leading with a Limp: p. 29
- CRISIS – “If we didn’t have to deal with people or problems, leadership would be a piece of cake. Instead, leading an auto dealership, a church, or a seminary is all about moving toward a goal while confronting significant obstacles with limited resources in the midst of uncertainty and with people who may or may not come through in a pinch.”
“Crises serve to remind us that we are fundamentally not in control. In reality, we are dependent on grace, on a host of people and circumstances that operate well beyond our control, and on the perspiration we have expended in trying to anticipate the unknown (an impossible feat in and of itself). – Leading with a Limp: pp. 29-30
- COMPLEXITY – “As if crises were not enough, all leaders must also deal with competing values, demands, and perspectives. As we handle a crisis or even make a fairly simple decision, we are sucked into a vortex of competing possibilities.” – Leading with a Limp: p. 30.
- BETRAYAL – “If you lead, you will eventually serve with Judas or Peter. Betrayal in some form is as sure as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. And somehow the fact that betrayal is inevitable makes experiencing it that much more bitter. It is like looking at the ten people who serve on a committee with you and wondering, Who will take my words and soak them in kerosene and attempt to burn down my reputation?” – Leading with a Limp: p. 31.
“Betrayal marks the past and mars the future. And once a betrayal occurs, it is nearly impossible to escape both self-doubt and self-recrimination: Why didn’t I see it coming? What did I do to deserve it? What can I do to make everything right? Why are things getting worse? Why won’t this person believe I meant no harm? Am I as bad as this person says?” – Leading with a Limp: p. 32.
- LONELINESS – “Leadership loneliness is far more than the state of being alone. The fact that we are set apart for a task and a calling is what deprives us of the normal fare of family and friendship. It doesn’t mean there is no family or friendship; leaders simply engage in family relationships and friendships in a different fashion.” – Leading with a Limp: p. 33.
“Loneliness also assaults a leader when he must absorb the inevitable expressions of disappointment from others when their legitimate expectations are not fulfilled. These criticisms come in part because leaders, of all people, are so busy they never get enough done, such as responding to e-mail and voice mail. – Leading with a Limp: pp. 33-34.
- WEARINESS – “Paul reminds us forcefully and kindly not to be weary in doing well, because in due season we will see the fruit that comes from the harvest of righteousness.2 He encourages us because he knew that caring for others is demanding; and far more than merely exhausting, it saps our hope.” – Leading with a Limp: p. 34.
“Weariness is really about this core struggle to hope despite the circumstances and our limitations, and not so much about stress and being tired. Will we continue to pray, dream, and fight for people when the battle looks pointless? When the pallor of death begins to shroud the marriage of a friend or colleague, will we fight to help the couple reconcile? Or will we encourage them to cut their losses since we are too weary and too short on hope? – Leading with a Limp: p. 35.
- GLORY – “God generally tells us to engage a difficulty that is impossible to handle at our level of maturity and faith. Glory casts us not into ease but into the arms of a relentless God who desires for us to know even greater glory.”
Here is God’s leadership model: he chooses fools to live foolishly in order to reveal the economy of heaven, which reverses and inverts the wisdom of this world. He calls us to brokenness, not performance; to relationships, not commotion; to grace, not success.”
“God works in a similar way. He woos us and we follow him. We pray, we fast, and we give. We urge him to transform our friend or our colleague. We talk to the person; we read the Bible with him and pray. And very little changes. The machine keeps taking our quarters. We keep plugging away, and then out of the blue a seed takes hold. A bit of green pops out of the ground, and the first sweet fruit of new life invites us to party. And we are hooked. More quarters go into the machine, and we remain as confused by how and when God works as we are at the random payout of a slot machine.” Leading with a Limp: p. 36.
If you lead, you will eventually serve with Judas or Peter. Betrayal in some form is as sure as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. And somehow the fact that betrayal is inevitable makes experiencing it that much more bitter.
“Leadership that mimics Jesus will not be normal. It will be neither expected nor, in most cases, preferred. It will be disruptive and anomalous, and it will demand one’s body and soul, fortune, reputation, and all the other small gods that keep our lives safe and satisfied. Here is God’s leadership model: he chooses fools to live foolishly in order to reveal the economy of heaven, which reverses and inverts the wisdom of this world. He calls us to brokenness, not performance; to relationships, not commotion; to grace, not success.” Leading with a Limp: p. 55.
“The word that (the Apostle) Paul uses is that a leader is to be an ‘example,’ but what that implies is more than a figure on a flannel board. He calls us to be a living portrayal of the very gospel we beseech others to believe. And that requires a leader to see himself as being equally prone to deceive as he is to tell the truth, to manipulate as he is to bless, to cower as he is to be bold. A leader is both a hero and a fool, a saint and a felon.” p. 56.