The Hardest Thing a Leader Must Learn


linkedhandsLeaders who are servants first will assume leadership only if they see it as the best way they can serve. They’re “called” to lead, rather than driven, because they naturally want to be helpful. – Ken Blanchard, Bill Hybels and Phil Hodges: Leadership By The Book, Tools to Transform Your Workplace

In all my research and reflection on the concept of Leadership and what I have coined LeaderSheep the one thing that keeps coming back is this need for a leader to learn when it’s time to take a break.

Leaders tend to be passionate and driven people. They see a goal, a design or a vision for the future that they yearn for deep in the fiber of their being and they go for it. But then there inevitably comes a day when the vision they had is either fulfilled or changed by circumstances beyond their control. On that day they are either no longer needed, or what can be even harder to take, they are no longer the best person to lead the next phase. What is the passionate and driven leader to do on that fateful day?

I learned a new word last week: Homothumadon.

This is the word in ancient Greek that was translated in the bible as “with one accord” or “of one mind”.

Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. [Romans 15:5-6]

I think that translation is actually a poor one, it loses something critical that is bit clearer in Greek.

Homothumadon is a compound word. Understanding the first part is easy, homo, meaning man, mankind or in this case, likely a group of people. Thumos on the other hand is a bit harder to define and therefore it is harder to get at just what Paul means here. On its most basic level thumos is a type of passion but to say that homthumadon is therefore grusainboltthumosoup passion isn’t quite right. Thumos is a visceral form of passion. It goes beyond merely feeling strongly about something and almost defies words. Thumos is passion that can be expressed only in grunts and yelps. When I think of thumos I think of an athlete at the moment of greatest effort, just before final triumph. Usain Bolt at the finish line of the 100m sprint or a football player spiking the ball after a long run to the end-zone, both come to mind.

In terms of leadership the concept of homothumadon then becomes a direction of and submission to the power of thumos.

I’m a passionate leader. At times I cannot express my passion in words, it’s just a feeling deep within my soul, a lot like thumos. But here’s the deal, as a leader the hardest lesson I have had to learn is when to submit to the thumos in others, join in an expression of homothumadon for the greater good and let someone else take the lead.

Leadership is a calling, not a self appointed role you can assume. Passion that can only be described as thumos, while constructive when put to use in submission to a group or shared goal, can also destroy group efforts when used to feed your ego.

Homothumadon, group visceral passion that is expressed with one accord, is an amazingly effective way to go about changing the world but you can’t have that type of passion without group buy in and mutual submission.

The hardest lesson a leader must learn is when to submit and when their job as a leader is done.

The problem with any leader we choose to put in charge is that they have the same issue everyone else has. Unless that person’s heart is changed, the prestige and power that come with leadership will quickly corrupt even those with the best intentions. – Tim Day; God Enters Stage Left

For passionate leaders like me the act of leading itself must be a constant gut check to guard against ego and the destructive forces of thumos. Or as my friend Tim, quoted above would say, leadership will quickly corrupt even my best intentions.

For more information on the concepts I am developing for my upcoming book “LeaderSheep: Leading From a Posture of Submission, in Business, Ministry and Life”, write to themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or visit us at www.themeekonomicsproject.com

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