i’m presenting a seminar at the national youth workers convention this week called “leading without power“. i stole the title from a book i read years ago by leadership guru max depree (author of leadership jazz, and leadership is an art). it’s not depree’s best book, by any stretch. but the title alone has captured my imagination for years.
in preparing for the seminar, i quickly re-read (skimmed) the book again. it didn’t as much give me seminar teaching points as it prodded some creative thinking on my part.
but one story in his book so completely and wonderfully captured a shift in my thinking that’s been fermenting for a few months: a shift from control to facilitation. the language of this mindset shift came from the conversation my youth ministry coaching program cohort had with dr. robert epstein. we were talking about parenting, and someone asked him how he’s changed his parenting approach from his first round to his second round (he has adult sons from a first marriage, and now, a grouping of 6 – 12 year olds from his second marriage). he briefly unpacked this notion of moving from control to facilitation, with facilitation meaning ‘identifying and nurturing competencies.’
this idea deeply resonates with me. i’ve been trying to apply it to my parenting.
but i’m seeing the spill-over into every other area of leadership. we’ve had some great discussions with my coaching group about what it would look like for us to be champions of competencies in teenagers, rather than program creators.
and, while preparing this seminar on powerless leadership, i’m realizing how this mindset shift so directly applies to all contexts of leadership.
with that in mind, this little story of max depree’s is priceless:
esther and i have eleven grandchildren. one of them born weeks premature is now in 3rd grade, and while she has some special challenges, she is really doing quite well. one day when she was three years old, she came to visit me in my office, which is in a small condominium. she said, “grandpa, would you like to see me run?” and i must tell you, my heart jumped. i thought to myself, this little girl can hardly walk. how is she going to run? but like a good grandparent, i said, “yes, i’d like to see you run.” she walked over to one side of the room and started to run, right across in front of my desk and directly into the side of a refrigerator. it knocked her on her back, and there she lay, spread-eagled on the floor with a big grin on her face. like any good manager, i immediately went over with a solution. i said, “honey, you’ve got to learn to stop.” and she looked up at me with a big smile and said, “but, grandpa, i’m learning to run.”