A few weeks ago I had a really interesting conversation with my friend Lee Baker on the topic of loyalty. (This post was inspired by Lee, you can follow him on twitter @LeeBaker1 and follow his blog at http://www.leebaker.cc)
Lee posed the question, “how do you build a team that is more loyal to a vision than a leader?” As leaders most of us are trying to build something that we want to last beyond our time. Legacy is an important driver in many leaders; the desire to create something that sustains beyond us. The natural assumption is that the way we help people sync up for the long haul is to help align their loyalty to the vision – because the leader can change while the vision remains.
However Lee posed an interesting thought to me that I have been wrestling with for a few weeks. On the surface we understand that the vision is bigger than the leader – the leader is simply the tip of the spear in the pursuit of the vision.
By digging deeper we might ask the question, “how did we get to that vision?” Here is where it gets complex; the vision was born in and delivered by a leader. Perhaps this ends up being something of a chicken and egg scenario…because the vision is what we are chasing but the source of the vision is a leader, so we could wonder if our loyalty is best aligned with the leader who sources the vision?
Humble leaders can fall into the trap of trying to push away or redirect loyalty, because they think loyalty is best aligned around vision. Remember this: people love quarterbacks, CEOs, presidents, seniors pastors, etc…most brands have a spokes person. I used to buy Air Jordan’s because of Michael Jordan, not because the shoes are actually cool. Lee put it really well, “If the shoes were called ‘Cory Lebovitz high tops’ they probably would not sell as well.”
I think the way we best wrestle this down is to look at the nature of leadership and authority. As spiritual leaders our goal is to lead with the mind and heart of Christ. If we lead out of a Christ-like center then both our vision and our identity as a leaders is ultimately tied to the person of Christ. People naturally express loyalty to a person before a vision because it is easier; the person is tangible and the vision is not. The lesson I gained from my conversation with @LeeBaker1 was this:
When a person is humble and points towards Christ, it is appropriate that the team would feel the highest level of loyalty to the leader – because the leader is a tangible expression of Christ. The leader serves the vision. The vision serves the cause of Christ. Christ is most tangibly expressed through a humble spiritual leader. Remember the words of Paul when he encouraged, “follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). Do not spend your time trying to focus your team’s loyalty away from the leader and towards the vision. Focus your team on Christ and cultivate their highest level of loyalty to Him.