in the absence of leadership

This past weekend I went white water rafting for the first time.  It was amazing.  I love the feeling of barreling down the river hitting class four rapids.

On our last run down the river we hit a rapid that took the back of the boat under the water.  In less than a second I saw one of my buddy and the guide floating down the river.  It was amazing just how quick it happened. At this point there was four of us left on the raft.  All of the sudden, in the absence of our guide, everyone stops rowing.   My buddy and our guide were rapidly floating down the river.  I started shouting orders.  To my surprise, they listened to every word that I said.  I don’t know why they listened to me.  I think it is just comforting to feel like someone else is in charge of the situation.

In my head I wasn’t in charge of anything, I just started shouting, “right side, left side, all forward.”  I’m not even sure that these are correct commands.  I just started to shout.  We ended up getting our guide and my buddy back on the boat.  They had a few intense seconds under water and a few minutes floating free.

This little incident was a good reminder that in the absence of leadership, people freeze.  Not only will people freeze but also they will listen to any moron (like me) who’s willing to shout out commands.

Here are three things I learned about leadership this weekend:

Prepare for leadership in your absence: If you are the leader of a church, business or a non-profit, train your staff to take over in the event that you get swept off the back of the raft.  Our river guide prepared us very well for leading in his absence.

Train your staff to listen to the right people: In the raft, I was the only one shouting out orders.  I was not the right person to get us all the way down the river.  I do alright in chaos situations, but we needed our experienced guide back for true success. In churches and non-profits there are plenty of people willing to take your organization off its mission.   This is where it becomes so important for every staff member to keep focused on the vision.

Prepare for your boss’ absence: As a staff pastor of a church I always ask my senior pastor what he would do in situations that come up.  I want to glean information from him because I would like to be a senior pastor one day, and when he is gone on vacation I want to be able to make calls that are wise and that he would make as well.  I want to be able to lead well in his absence.  When you take this step, your boss will be able to enjoy a sabbatical or go on vacation very easily.

Can you keep your head in all situations?  Enough to lead others in the right direction, only if it’s just for a period of time?

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  • Cira Gieck

    Great story and example