Don't Get Lost in the Pack

Oftentimes on Sundays I find myself standing at the back of the room during our services.  I might be just off to the side, or maybe in the sound booth but usually somewhere at the back.

I like to stand in the back.

I love to observe how people respond in worship.  I enjoy seeing them connect with the message.

But I also see every distraction.  I see the things that aren’t working.  I become a spectator rather than a leader.  I’m disengaged from the crowd and I’m merely observing and critiquing.  I’ve separated myself from the very people I am entrusted to lead.

My perspective is quite different on the days that I choose to sit in a chair, in a row, in the front.  From the front I’m focused on the purpose of the moment.  From the front I’m aware of my need to lead even with the simple acts of singing, clapping and raising my hands in worship.  From the front I can’t turn around and critique what everyone else is doing.  I must just do what I long to see them do – worship.

I’m amazed at how many times as a leader I get lost in the pack – the very pack that I am responsible for leading.  I get caught up with criticism, self-doubt, complaints, in-fighting, fear, and naysayers.  And before long I’m no longer running at the front, I’m lost somewhere in the middle.  And you can’t lead from the middle of the pack.  You’ll only go in circles.

Leaders have to be out front, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

So what does this look like?

Physically – You literally need to be visible.  Don’t be stuck in the back constantly critiquing.  When you’re focused on everything people are doing wrong, you’re no longer leading them.  A critic and a leader are not the same thing.

Mentally – You must be thinking ahead, anticipating challenges and planning direction.  You can’t do this from the middle… in other words, you can’t do this when you’re stuck in the minutia of day-to-day details.  Break away from the pack enough to see what’s ahead.

Emotionally – You set the emotional thermostat.  When you are tired, everyone else will feel tired.  When you are stressed, everyone else will be stressed.  Take responsibility for setting the emotional tone.

Spiritually – You are their shepherd.  How much your team values spiritual growth and health will be determined by how well you display this as a value in your own life.  You can’t expect what you don’t model.

Leadership is tough.  It’s lonely at the front.  I think that’s why so many of us are tempted to get lost in the middle of the pack… but you simply can’t lead from there.

Where are you trying to lead from? 

Are you at the back of the pack criticizing, poking and prodding your team?  Are you in the middle lost in the confusion of complaints and questions.  Or are you out front leading strongly and boldly?

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  • Lockhart777 September 6, 2011  

    There is always a balance from our analytical self and our participating self. Choose to participate in different roles at different services. Each leader that continues to build relationships will actually receive more in-depth feedback from those they interact with than just observing. When I am at work with Southwest and flying airplanes, I do not see much when the door is shut behind me. My interaction with people has to be through conversation and questioning between the actual flights. Our culture at Southwest is led by example, long before I arrived. The culture at Cross Point is something I have experienced for going on my fifth year. The leaders who are most present are those who engage, connect and draw people together.

    Jenni, you are leading a healthy church, with many great leaders present.

    • Jenni Catron September 6, 2011  

      So true, Lance. Thank you!!

  • Debbie Pell September 7, 2011  

    Jenni –
    I continually love to read your blog  because you often reflect what I am thinking and feeling.  You are such a leader for all of us.  Keep helping us to stay in touch with what is really real. 

  • Tamara Taylor September 7, 2011  

    I tend to lead from the middle, sadly. Too busy trying to be everyone’s friend to lead them. 

  • Pete September 7, 2011  

    Good stuff Jenni!