IVP - Online Pulpit - If You Haven't Bled, You Haven't Led

December 5, 2012

If You Haven't Bled, You Haven't Led

By Janis Bragan Balda

Everywhere we go when people find out we have written on the subject of “battered leaders,” they have a story to tell. It’s amazing how many people identify with the subject. Even mentioning the phrase results in heads nodding and sometimes more painful signals of despondency, such as shoulders sagging. Every leader seems to remember being beaten up at some point.

Recently we had dinner with a woman who has a wealth of experience in fundraising and fund development, both as a consultant and as staff for an international development organization. When she found out about the book, she immediately identified and then related (after a little encouragement) the experience that still mars her ability to participate in leadership in her church.

Her story involved leading a team on a short-term mission trip. Despite experience in this type of leadership, sharing the task with someone she knew well and respected, and lots of prayer, she met with such blatant resistance from two or three people, that the trip was a disaster for the leaders and has so hurt her that she will not lead another one.

What happened? A couple of people decided to dig in, asserting their own will and refusing to be led. No amount of negotiating, seeking common ground or prayer seemed to resolve the matter. The end result was a burned leader, someone who cannot see her way to serve in this capacity again. She is still seeking answers to what went wrong—and doesn’t seem to have any even though the incident occurred over a year ago. But she moves forward in other ways and doesn’t let this experience define her as a person or as a leader in the other capacities.

This is just one example of hundreds we have heard. What is your story? How have you learned to cope with negative responses that have resulted from attempting to lead? What ways have you dealt with the pain and disappointment that comes with finding resistance? When you are offered new opportunities, do they remind you of past experiences, inducing fear or anxiety rather than hope and excitement?

More often than we think, this is a common experience. Knowing that the apostle Paul met the same challenges offers us encouragement, and by looking at his response to the church at Corinth we can gain some insights into the leader-follower dynamic.

We see for example, leadership did not eliminate suffering in Paul’s life, rather it sometimes inflamed it. And while certain believers in Corinth discredited Paul for enduring suffering, he knew it ended up for their benefit: “If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort (2 Cor 1:6 NIV).

Paul’s response to the suffering he endured—which occurred in large measure because of what the believers thought of him and acted out toward him—was to see it in perspective. He saw how his responses benefited them and also how he gained understanding through it. Hopefully we too can gain personal insight and awareness so that like Paul (2 Cor 6:6) we find among our “credentials” knowledge (gnosis) or a “grasp of truth” (NEB), “insight” (Phillips) or “understanding” (NIV).

Handbook for Battered Leaders is designed to help us along that path.

JBaldaOP.jpgJanis Bragan Balda (Ph.D., Claremont Graduate University) is professor of management, currently teaching at Fuller Seminary and UCLA Extension. She formerly taught at St.George’s University in the Caribbean and George Fox University. Dr. Balda also established the Peter F. Drucker Society of the Caribbean at SGU while working as a principal at the Max De Pree Center for Leadership.

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at December 5, 2012 1:39 PM Bookmark and Share

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