Success can mean a lot of things to different people. We seem to use the word to describe achievement – being top sales person, winning the preaching award in seminary, achieving investment goals, being called to a larger congregation, raising a family… the list can go on and on.
Lately, I’ve been thinking of success in terms of effectiveness. Does my leadership bring life to others or does it bring stagnation, tedium or other characteristics of “dying” rather than “flourishing”? Do you have positive and healthy influence? Are people following you (your leadership, example, teaching, etc). John Maxwell, in a recent blog (link is at the end of this post) writes this: Success means having those closest to me love and respect me the most. My effectiveness in these top relationships are the ones that form my leadership in other relationships.
John Maxwell writes, “if you want to truly succeed in this life, you need to ask yourself a question: Is your pursuit of success drawing you closer to – or farther from – the most important people in your life? Maxwell applies this to marriage and family first. I agree.
I’m learning that my effective leadership in marriage and family is a crucible for forming a pattern of effective leadership in congregations, community and other organizations. One personal “success strategy” that I use (a slowly forming habit) is to be present to the moment. When I carry church concerns home with me it means that I haven’t emotionally left the church office. Home is a new environment and the “atmosphere” at home demands a different skill set than the one I use for hospital visits, committee meetings or sermon exegesis.
One thing that supports that practice of “presence” is that I forced myself to put my cell phone on silent mode at home. I check messages and texts regularly which allows me the freedom to decide when and whom I call. If the call elicits anxiety I can give myself time to pray and be less anxious. I don’t think there is a rule about being available to take every call every time the phone rings (though some have argued otherwise!). And when my spouse is communicating to me, I won’t be sitting by her side scrolling down my messages and only partially tuned in to her needs.
“Determining ‘who is most important?’ is as critical as a daily priority list of tasks that guides our ‘what is important’ question each day”, Maxwell states. He concludes that our process for implementing “success” (or effectiveness) must “foster and promote three things:
- Better understanding,
- Positive change, and
- Growing relationships.”
It sometimes seems that being “successful” with those closest to us is often the most difficult. First, it begins with God. The more intimate my relationship with God, the more intimate is my relationship with those close to me. Second, I must become willing to be vulnerable and honest with those closest to me. If I can’t be effective there, any “success out there” will be shallow. My spouse, children and closest friends are the who help me flourish.
Vulnerability is risky with family because our “blind spots” are well known to them. But I find that when I’m grounded in my spiritual life, I can risk vulnerability with spouse, family and those closest to me. In short, my leadership is forged in the crucible of my closest relationships.
Here’s the link to John Maxwell’s blog: