Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Running on Empty

Is an individual's leadership a renewable resource?

This has been a crazy few weeks, with events at church, and stuff going on with Freewheelin' Bikes and stuff going on with Motus Dance Theatre, and just life in general. I feel like I've been on a treadmill, playing catch-up while also balancing work and all the other things going on.

I recently made the decision to end my term on both Freewheelin's and Motus's boards of directors at the end of December. This will be the first time in almost five years that I won't be on the board of directors of a community not-for-profit. And while it was a difficult decision, it was clearly the right one. 

Lately, I've felt like my ability to contribute to the two organizations has been compromised -- time-wise, certainly money-wise, and enthusiasm-wise. I've found it harder and harder to sit through board meetings as I've lost touch with the original reason I decided to support the orgs, and I've felt increasingly out of phase with the rest of the board members, like they knew something I didn't, or their vision for the future was different from my own.

But all this has really led me to wonder: Is leadership like a fossil fuel? Do we, as individuals, ever run out of leadership? Or is it always in us, just differently focused at different times in our lives and in different circumstances? 

Am I all out of leadership? Am I all out of leadership for now? Or is it just time to focus on other things for a while? I mean, I'll still be showing leadership at church (as the chair of Member Care, leading us through this whole discussion), so I hope I'm not completely leadership-dry. 

But what do you think? Do you think leadership comes and goes? Is it "once a leader, always a leader" or do we have a finite quantity within us? Or is that even the right vocabulary to use in talking about leadership?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have been pondering this myself the past few months (or really, years, I guess). My current thinking on this is: leadership is a capacity - a potential space, if you will. When you are in situations and groups where that capacity is called upon,that potential space is filled with energy and voila! leading. But as time goes on, perhaps the situation changes or you change or a butterfly flaps its wings in Argentina, and that dynamic doesn't work anymore. That open space becomes a drain, and energy starts leaking from it. So I think the thing to do is to step back and close off that space, let it lapse for awhile, and try to replenish your reserves for the next time that space is needed. Or at least that is my theory for today. Excellent post, sir. :)

Scott S. Semester said...

Thanks, Anonymous!

Here's hoping that this time of renewal will help replenish the reserves, as you say. :)

JJ, who had technical difficulties last night and emailed his comment in said...

I don't think that we're born with a certain amount of leadership in us. I think that leadership is a living thing inside us that continues to change as we grow throughout our lives. I think that a leader leads by the good decisions he makes. In your case, you have chosen to remove yourself from situations that you no longer can support. Certainly it is a good idea to remove yourself from a situation that you can no longer support with your time or finances. Wise leaders know when it is time to pass the torch to someone who is willing to carry it. I think that simply knowing when and how to step down from a position so that you can focus on other projects is leadership in itself. Other opportunities will come when your life changes again.

I also think that leadership isn't magic. It's not something you're born with. It's something that you learn through your life. It is obviously easier for some than others, but I believe that everyone is born with the same amount of leadership potential - like a tiny seed. Some may see that potential grow and flower, while others may just see empty dirt. It's up to the individual to tap into that potential to become a leader. And, just because your not currently actively leading anything or anyone, doesn't mean you're not a leader.....