6.08.2007

Expand Influence, Don't Contain It

My former boss is a remarkable woman. 15+ years after taking the
reins at the small non-profit where I used to work, she is stil going.
In fact, she's even more passionate than on Day One, if that's
possible.

I gave her ten good years of service, but have since moved on. And
while it was hard for me to leave her and hard for her to see me
leave, she genuinely wished me well and we've enjoyed a wonderful
relationship since my departure. I know she truly wishes me the
greatest success in all my future endeavors, and not just me but other
key people who worked under her who have gone on to run non-profits
themselves, as well as do other great things.

And every day, I have a deeper appreciation for that kind of attitude,
that is sad to see good people go but honestly wants to see them move
on and do great work. It can be so easy to want to hang on to good
people, especially when you're hustling at a small non-profit and need
to wring the most out of every advantage you have. It is only natural
to have mixed feelings, if not be outright resentful or mean when
people opt out and you're left to keep on fighting.

It takes a lot of groundedness, a lot of foresight, a lot of
leadership, to mold leaders under you to the point that they become
more attractive candidates for doing something bigger and better than
work under you. So I have a lot of respect for my former boss, and
for other mentors who are humble and big-hearted enough to really want
their proteges to grow to be greater than their current role, and even
greater than their mentor will ever be.

Think also of the pastor who is able to want people to become more
effective ministers, even if that means they move on to other churches
and communities. It takes a lot to want more for people and for the
Kingdom of God than to want to hold on to one's own congregation and
budget.

Think also of the politician who is able to want people to become more
educated and more informed, even if that means they have more social
and economic mobility, to move out of poor neighborhoods or to move
across the country. It takes a lot to want more for people and for
the nation than to want to hold on to one's tax base and voting
constituency.

And so it is with the non-profit head who is able to want people to
grow their leadership skills, even if that means they get recruited
away to run their own non-profits. It takes a lot to want more for
people and for social welfare than to want to hold on to one's top
subordinates.

And so as I see more and more pastors and politicians and non-profit
heads who don't act in these ways, I am all the more appreciative that
I got to work with a leader who did act this way. And I was a direct
beneficiary of such an approach to leadership: one that seeks to
expand influence instead of containing it.

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