Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Leading From Outside The Box

I had lunch with a ministry colleague a few weeks ago and as we shared I was telling him about some difficult issues I have facing, both personal and ministry related. He quickly responded that he had a year earlier gone through almost identical issues. He shared how tough that year was and then he wrote down the name of a book on his business card and slid it across the table to be saying, “This book literally saved my life during that time.” So I went back to the office and ordered the book. I started reading it. It is a book called “Leadership and Self Deception: Getting Out Of The Box” by The Arbinger Institute.

The first part of the book defines “The Box.” Let me try to briefly explain. My behavior as a leader is either “inside the box” or “outside the box.” When I lead from inside the box I see myself and others in a distorted way. In other words, I simply see others as objects. When I lead from outside the box I see myself and others for who we really are – people. Let me illustrate.

I get on an airplane that has open seating. I grab a seat next to the window and quickly put my briefcase on the middle seat. I began to read my newspaper. As people come down the aisle and appear that they may be eyeing the seat next to me, I open the newspaper wider making that sea look less appealing. Where am I? I am “inside the box.” I am viewing everyone who comes down that aisle as merely an object that will make my life less comfortable and enjoyable if they sit in the seat next to me. My behavior of putting my briefcase on the seat next to me and opening my newspaper wider is stemming from my “inside the box” view of people as mere objects.

Now compare that to a married couple who gets on a plane and due to a mishap are not given seats together. To their surprise and delight, a man gets up from the rear of the plane and comes up and says, “It appears you two do not have seats together. There is actually an empty seat next to mine. I would be glad to switch with one of you so that two can sit next to each other on the flight.” Where is this person? He is “outside the box.” His behaviors are stemming from viewing people for what the really are – people!

The book than describes self-deception in leadership. Self-deception is when I am leading from “inside the box” but don’t realize it. Self-deception is when I think I am leading by viewing everyone else in my organization as people when I am really viewing them as objects. Self-Deception is thinking I am leading from “outside the box” when I am really leading from “inside the box.”

As I read the first part of this book I became convicted. I like to think I am leading Grace Church from “outside the box.” I like to think that I am leading this ministry by viewing people as people. But as I read the examples in the book I realized how often I have been viewing people in our ministry as mere objects rather than as people. Self-deception – I think I might be guilty. But that’s not a bad realization because you can’t change until you realize the truth.

The rest of the book will deal with understanding how we get into that box and understanding how to get out of it. I am looking forward to reading and processing the rest of the book.

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