Thursday, April 23, 2009

Week #5.5: Chapter 8 - Taking Responsibility

“… not only about your duties and obligations… it’s about taking full charge of your impact on other people…”

This chapter seems to assert that the impact our leadership has on those around us is important enough to qualify as an “added benefit.” For us though, this concept is much closer to “mission critical.” Our leadership is all about impacting other people. We may therefore need to give Graham’s words a little more weight than he gives them himself.

On page 79, for example, he uses a story to illustrate how a leader might not ever see much of the impact their leadership has on the rest of someone’s life. This “you never know” possibility is a kind of side-benefit for Graham’s purposes, but it’s central to the vision for us: “developing Christian leadership and character in young musicians.”

You may not see some of the results of taking responsibility for your leadership, but we fully expect God to use your leadership in the CTI-specific experience to impact areas of our team member’s lives that won’t even show up on the radar this summer. Bottom line: don’t underestimate the importance of such opportunities when they don’t seem relevant to the moment. Investing in people will always be relevant to our mission, even if doing so doesn’t seem to contribute towards the success of any immediate objective.

Add your own comments to this point (if you’d like) as reflection question #1


“Leadership is a contract, and you’re responsible for honoring your end of it.”

If we’re all really honest, I think we’d admit that this isn’t the first place our mind goes when we think about leadership. There’s always a temptation to let that entitlement bug creep in and convince us that leadership is, first and foremost, a status that we’ve earned by putting in our time and good behavior, or a privilege and authority that we deserve because of our depth of experience in a particular area.

It’s a sober reminder to me to read sentences like “People expect you to lead, and in return, give you the authority to do so.” Leadership is, at least in part, something that is given to us by those we lead. We should therefore take particular note of our obligations in this transaction.

Graham lists them as:
- The safety and well-being of participants;
- Helping the group reach its goals;
- Helping create a quality experience;
- Meeting certain legal requirements.

We don’t need to spend any time on that last one (and, by the way, we do employ the kind of waivers described in the book.) As far as the safety and well-being of our participants goes, we’re very diligent about this in our tour preparation. You also need to apply your common sense, of course, and it would be wise of you to help your co-leader understand this part of the “leadership contract” through your meetings with them as they will serve as your “competent person at the other end.”

Let’s take a deeper look at the middle two points: “Helping the group achieve its goals” and “Helping create a quality experience.”

Reflection question #2: Recalling the definition of leadership that we highlighted in week 1: “Leadership is the capacity to move others towards goals shared with you, with a focus and competency they would not achieve on their own”, what goals do you think your leadership should help your group achieve?


The third point, “helping
create a quality experience”, is the most critical one in my mind. This involves taking responsibility for making the quality of the experience as high as possible for those we lead, as Graham has noted.

He highlighted a few “basic responsibilities for making a trip ‘fun’. I found two to be noteworthy for our purposes: building and maintaining positive relationships inside the team, and being a coach as well as a leader. I interpreted this last one not to mean that we should try to pass on our superior knowledge or ability in any situation the team encounters (which would be the definition of teaching, not coaching,) but that we should constantly be on the lookout for ways that our team members can test and improve their abilities and skills.

To me this means things like challenging people to refine their testimonies (and to actually give them,) to lead a devotion, to step out and engage people after a concert, to interact with the “unlovelables” in the culture, to greenline, and in other ways within the bounds of common sense, to not sacrifice the learning opportunities that might result in less “effectiveness” in outward ministry.

I am confident that all of you will embrace this responsibility fully. The hardest part of helping to create a positive experience is not knowing how to begin... it’s understanding where our responsibility ends, and learning to be okay with that. The following quote from Robert Birkby ranks as one of my top 5 excerpts from this book:

“Leaders can inspire, teach, entertain, and in many other ways shape the framework upon which an adventure can unfold. Within that framework, however, group members must bear much of the responsibility for the quality of their own experiences. Leaders offer opportunities, but then it is up to those they are leading to make of those opportunities what they will. The choice of having a fantastic experience instead of a disappointing failure is often a matter of perception, both at the moment it is occurring and in hindsight, but the choice is definitely there for each group member to make.

I include this quote as a point of encouragement. It largely speaks for itself. While your responsibilities as a team leader do include measurables like presenting the vision to the team, providing them with direction and encouragement, and serving our international partners and their needs while ensuring the safety and health of the team, your internal responsibility is largely to cultivate an environment in which team members are presented with opportunities for spiritual and personal growth. What they do, or don’t do, with those opportunities, is outside the scope of your responsibility, because it is outside of your control. And it should be.

We cannot force people to choose the things we think (or even know) are in their best interest. There is, of course, an obvious spiritual parallel here, because this is exactly how God “leads” us. And as surely as it breaks His heart when we choose the ways that He does not want us to choose, it will break yours when your team members do likewise. And yet God may still use the outcome of their choices to form them in the image of His son.

It is understandable that we in leadership often accept too much of the blame for any dissatisfaction among the people we lead, because we understand that we bear much responsible for the quality of their experience. Don’t lose sight of the fact that they also bear responsibility for it. And remember that when one person chooses poorly, you still have an obligation to lead the rest of the team. Don’t allow the poor choices of a few to derail your focus on giving everyone else the opportunity to choose well.

Add your own comments to this point (if you’d like) as reflection question #3


There were a few other good points in this chapter that I opted not to dig into. If you have anything to share on one of the three points below, please do so as reflection question #4,

-Pp 76-77: Your thoughts, feelings and behaviors affect the world around you (taking responsibility for the emotional spillover from one part of your life into another.)

-P. 82: Don’t stand on your authority for the sole purpose of getting your way. (Why? It inhibits the growth of others!)

-Pp. 82-83: Being a good follower. Serving as a model for the supportive “followership” you appreciate when you are in charge.


  1. Reflection #1:
    This is a huge struggle for me. I’m a task-oriented, results-driven kind of guy. I want to know exactly what the impact of what I’m doing is going to be before I even do it. So to say that I might never know how much I impacted someone is hard for me to hear.

    I often wonder about people who have come in and out of my life throughout the years and I wonder if they were improved by their interactions with me. Or did I have a negative impact on them? Because impact goes both ways.

    Just as we may never see the positive results of our leadership, we may also not see the negative impacts either and that’s scary because we don’t have an opportunity to fix things.

    Reflection #2:
    A goal that I always have for any groups that I lead is that they would reach their fullest potential. I think that we often fall short of our potential because we don’t believe that we can achieve it. Obviously we can do nothing apart from Christ, but I think that we forget that He’s always with us. Therefore, we often sell ourselves (and by default, Christ) short by giving up too early when things get hard, or by settling for second best.

    Reflection #3:
    I’m guilty of this a lot. I can honestly say that there have been times (and I’m sure there will be many more) that I have been physically ill because of the pressure I place on myself to make sure that everyone is having a good experience. I guess it’s the people-pleaser in me that takes it personal when someone isn’t getting what they expected/desired out of an experience I’m responsible for.

    I have to constantly remind myself that not only are they responsible for the choices they make, that the choices they make that cause them pain/hardship may actually be what the Lord intended anyway, in order to teach them a lesson. (I’m not saying that God’s out to get us, I’m just saying that sometimes He uses hardship to teach us lessons that couldn’t be learned otherwise.)

    Reflection #4:
    -P. 82: Don’t stand on your authority for the sole purpose of getting your way. (Why? It inhibits the growth of others!)

    Man, talk about conviction here. I have to check myself on this one a lot, and I think that if we’re honest, most leaders do this as well. To be sure, there are appropriate times to assert yourself for the betterment of the team, but I always need to remind myself that the growth of my team members is the most important thing, not my desires.

  2. 1. This is a crucial point for me to remember. I have a habit of looking a little too far ahead. I usually have a pretty clear picture of the long-term and as a consequence my short-term vision gets a little fuzzy. I know in my head that my impact on my team members goes a lot farther than I can see, and set goals that would help those interactions to make a positive impact. Unfortunately, I'm not so great at actually seizing the opportunities when they arise. This is an area that God has been working with me on for the last two years. I really have to work on remembering that acting NOW, and meeting the needs of my team by taking my responsibilities as a leader very seriously will help me- or US, really- reach those long term goals.

    2. Some of the goals I have for our team would be to be able to see beyond ourselves. To not see ourselves as a team from America going to "help out" the people of Honduras- as if they couldn't help themselves- but to be a team of believers, using the gifts that God has given them, going to partner with more believers so that together we can use our lives to spread the Gospel of Christ. I'd also like to see our team step out a bit- not because I ask them to, but because they have a genuine interest in making connections with the people we are ministering to in order to further the Kingdom. Initiative, I guess, is what it comes down to. A conviction to take initiative, because that is what will make a difference when they go home to their churches.

    *** I have to take a break, so to ensure that I don't lose these answers, I'm gunna post them. I'll finish the other two later! :)

  3. #1- I, like Paul, am much more driven by the need have everything organized and the knowledge of what the outcome of what I'm leading will be. When I let this side take over, I naturally forget the effects that may have on a team, especially when it comes to noticing times throughout the trip where they may need a more personalized approach for an issue that I didn't 'plan' on. However, I have also been fortunate enough to have a couple people from my past leading experiences tell me what they thought of my leading and how it affected them- both good and bad. And from what I know about myself and what was said to me in these conversations, I think the best thing we can possibly do (at least us J's) is to just slow down a bit and take in what is going on around us- at least it has been what helps me find that bridge between 'managing' and 'leading'.

    #2- First, I absolutely agree with both Paul and Laura on this one- leading teams towards reaching their full potential and giving them an environment in which they can desire to take the initiative are really important, especially if we at CTI desire to develop leadership skills all who come through the program.
    I know for me personally, I have been thinking about what I want my main message/theme to be for my HK team. I've decided to use 1 Corinthians 9: 19-23 as our focus, where Paul talks about instead of being a 'better' Christian because you are different than the church next door, Paul became 'a Jew to the Jews, one under the law to those under the law... so that I might win a few for Christ'. I think my main desire for this team in particular is to have them not shut off to the HK culture because it is so different and foreign but to keep open minds and even be able to work within the culture. I want them have broadened worldviews when we get back to the states in July and have a deeper understanding of what God's creation is and who his people are around the world- that we're not all middle-class north Americans with the same values.
    I guess I could sum up my main desire in one word: exposure. I want them to be exposed to something different and be able to genuinely say "this is beautiful- thanks God".

    #3- I don't have much else to add here, except to reemphasize you can't let the wet blanket you may have on your team ruin it for everybody. I had one on each of my Aussie teams and the first year Mike and I really didn't want to handle it so we ended up letting them affect the entire team, keeping the experience from being even better than it was. My second year, I had another one and didn't want a repeat of the first year so I helped curb their pessimism as much as I could and made sure the rest of the team didn't buy into their whining and complaining. If they insist on having the 'worst time ever', then they will. And when they get home and have time to reflect on their experience, they'll probably regret being the 'wet blanket', which can be the avenue in which God can use to teach them later on.

    #4- Pp 76-77: Your thoughts, feelings and behaviors affect the world around you (taking responsibility for the emotional spillover from one part of your life into another.)
    Ok, so this is the one that is probably the hardest for me. I'm really good at compartmentalizing my different 'lives'- back home, cti, school, etc- but not so good at keeping 'spillover' from happening within these lives (ex: I may be mad at one team member for something but I'll be in a bad mood around the rest of the team who did nothing to deserve it). And these spillover moments really do affect those around us.
    I have to constantly remind myself that as a leader, this is even more important to remember because my attitude towards the trip, our mission, our partners, and my team set the tone for what the team will expect and very likely mirror. Even if I'm frustrated one day because the partner asked me to change our plans for a concert 5 times that day, I can't just go off on it or let it sour my mood- just do it and try (really hard if I have to) to find the joy and/or understanding for why the partner asked this of you.

  4. Alright... time to finish...

    3. I think my pride is hurt more than anything else if I hear that someone is not enjoying themselves or having a hard time on a team. It doesn't speak well for my character that my first reaction is feeling sorry for myself before feeling sympathy or empathy for the team mate, but it's true. I instantly think of what I did wrong to make this person miserable. I think of ways that I could have handled a situation differently, ways to influence that would have made the team-mate choose differently, and so on. I blame myself completely for their unhappiness and then feel like I've failed them as a leader.

    But, discontent and a little bit of hurt is fertile ground for the Spirit to move, eh? There are multiple examples in the Bible when Christ goes straight to the heart through and open wound. We often mistake happiness for blessings (thank you, Caedmon's Call), and miss out on the fact that we rarely experience growth when we are happy and comfortable. Also, especially on a summer team, there are a lot of young team members who haven't really had to struggle with very much. If a team mate is struggling, it's important that we create a safe environment for them to experience that in. Added to that is a lack of experience with regret. If a team mate is given an extraordinary opportunity to do something amazing in their ministry over the summer and they just pass it by, it's tempting to think that we've failed a leaders. But, in another year or two, perhaps they'll learn something from the regrets they might have in not participating or having a terrible attitude the entire time. You just never know.

    4. Pg 76-77 Taking responsibility for emotional spill-over from one part of your life to another.

    Woah! This is definitely something I struggle with a ton! I don't think I have a lot of problems putting it into practice, but boy do I hate doing it! This right here is where I experience the most loneliness as well as issues of entitlement. I end up being bitter about being expected to compartmentalize my own life when everyone else is allowed to carry their baggage around to spill-over whenever they like. I sometimes feel overwhelmingly lonely because I feel like I can't share the feelings I do have in other areas of my life just to avoid the spill-over. We were just talking about this as a team the other day. On of my team mates was struggling with something going on at home and it had been going on for a while, affecting his behavior on our team as well. We discussed the idea of our lives not being to separate ones. It is a difficult reality to live out when it comes down to it, but it's true. Our lives at home are not separate from our lives here simply because we wish them to be. That carries over into summer too. The fact that we are team leaders for a summer doesn't mean that it is all consuming and we have nothing else in life to think about. It just means that we are often asked, and in some cases, expected to lay everything else down for the sake of our teams, even if it means we must compartmentalize. To be set apart as leaders. (That's not to say that you, Paul and Chris, are asking this of us, or that it's a fair expectation, or that it's even necessary, BUT it is often what team mates expect from leaders whether they acknowledge it or not.) I don't like it. What are your thoughts on this? In reading back over my comments on this, I realize that they're overly generalized and sound a bit exaggerated, but I was surprised by what the book said about this particular subject. They way the book explained it, this method works for a weekend trip, or a week-long hike, but is this really something that feasible for 6 weeks or a year? I suppose that this is where the benefit of having a co-leader comes in, eh?

  5. "Initiative, I guess, is what it comes down to. A conviction to take initiative, because that is what will make a difference when they go home to their churches."

    I love what Laura writes here. If we can craft our leadership on the principle of developing our team members as they seek to become more like Christ, it will permeate everything that we do.

    Initiative, and I would add responsibility (which I believe goes hand in hand with initiative), are some of the greatest gifts that we can give team members. But we have to teach them how to use it, too!

    I also think that Laura is right to point out the benefit of having a co-leader, especially with this issue of emotional spill-over. I've also found that making intentional time for me to be alone with the Lord, dealing with MY relationship with Him (not praying for my team, not asking Him for help with some team issue), seeking His guidance for MY personal walk with Him, is essential to combating this.

  6. 1) The “you never know” possibility should be the reasoning we use all the time as leaders. But when I think about how I may positively impact someone this summer and never know the good I’ve done I also have to come down to earth and remember that I could just as easily have a negative impact on them if I’m not careful. I don’t mean to be a pessimist because it’s usually not me but I want to remind myself that like Chris says we can’t underestimate the importance of each opportunity even if it doesn’t seem relevant to the moment, but instead remember the impact we are making for eternity and choose to walk in that. Rather than leaving them with a bad taste in their mouth, I want to impact my team to have a greater love for Christ and a burning passion to walk out their faith in new ways. May I take the necessary time to invest in people’s lives this summer regardless of what fruit I will see from it.

    2) As a leader I think that one goal for me and my team is humility - that we lay ourselves down each day and in doing so be able to be vessels used by God for whatever He has planned that day. I often like to have things planned out ahead so this is a good thing for me to remember, LAY MY AGENDA DOWN. I have found that over this past year on the road I have had to learn more than ever to just trust God and His plan for the day about who I’ll meet, who I will be able to talk with, what kind of host I’ll have, etc. I know the summer is different but at the same time I think it’ll be even more necessary to remind myself and then as a team decide to lay ourselves down each day at the feet of God and ask Him to use us as His vessels in whatever way that is whether on-stage, driving around, sight-seeing, or simply talking with our contacts and locals. When we decide to give our day completely over to God, I have found He blesses me far more abundantly than I ever thought He could.

    3) I’m with Laura on this one for sure… I also seem to look to myself and blame myself for not making the experience they are having the best and thus feeling like I’m failing them as the leader. I guess it comes back to the whole idea of handing over everything to God, leaving it in His hands. Realizing that it’s not about me or my leading ability but rather about Christ and following Him. I hope that I’ll be able to lay aside my desire to “make the experience” and let God work in each member to teach them the things He has for them this summer. I may think I know a good lesson for someone to learn but they may not be ready yet or maybe they are already working on it and rather than me pushing my opinions and views onto them I want to offer to them the path that God has and send them on their way to journey with God. Sure they may try and step off to test the waters like all of us have done but in the end I pray they would follow hard after God and see how each test, decision, and blessing along the way comes from God above and when we are willing He leads us through to a place of peace and growth.

    4) -Pp. 82-83: Being a good follower. Serving as a model for the supportive “followership” you appreciate when you are in charge.

    As a new leader with CTI I think that I will appreciate more than ever the follower aspect of leadership. How important it is to do what Graham says, “give your leaders the respect they need to do their jobs, especially those with less experience.” I know for me it’s hard to follow a less-experienced leader but this is going to be me this summer so I can see just how important it is to be a good follower because by allowing others to step into the leadership role we are more or less replacing ourselves, like the “replacing” we talked about before leaving for this tour. So I count it a privilege to be a supportive follower and hope that this summer I will be able to have a few supportive followers on my team as I make mistakes while I learn how to better lead a CTI summer team.

  7. wow, I love all the comments on here! I should be taking notes when i read these...

    #1- taking responsibility. Yeah, I really understand and at the same time hate this one. Wilmo always said "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink". I have a hard time with that, cause i take it personally when someone I am responsible for doesn't "drink". But I think that alot of good things have been said about it on this blog, and with the short time I have I want to say this; we can do our best, but our best is never good enough unless we allow God to work in it and through us. So that means i can pour out everything I have and it still won't be enough without God. I do struggle with this, but I also realize that even tho I may see a failure, God see's a chance to grow a person (like Losh said, reaching the heart through the open wound)

    #-4ish. As Losh said about the emotional spill over, for me as well. This also ties back into what we discussed earlier when Graham talked about being the counter balance to the negative attitudes on the team. As a leader, it is our responsibility to be a positive influence on the attitudes of our team. The problem for this is, I am completely unable to be this in and of myself. I can't control me emotions anymore than i can control the weather. Well, that's maybe an overstatement, as we can control our emotions, but our faculty for control is limited by our understanding of what is the proper emotion for the circumstance. i.e, we lack the understanding to put our emotions under the proper constraints by virtue of our fallen nature. We can't see what is right or wrong without the Spirit's guidance. BUT, the Spirit does know, and we have that Spirit in us as believers, and if we allow God to speak into us and give us the strength to control them, then we can be an effective and positive influence despite our own inabilities and loneliness.
    Ok, I'm out, gotta eat and run. Peace

  8. #2 Something that I hope to do in leadership is lead my team into selflessness and full acknowledgement of God’s grace. I want to remember that we can’t do anything in our own strength but by God’s grace. And I want us to act like we love each other and our contacts. That means learning to give up our own agenda and desires sometimes for the good of the contact, or the good of another team member, or the good of someone we meet on the street who no one ever talks to.

    #3 I agree. I think something that’s going to be challenging for me is knowing when to step back and let people make their own mistakes (or have their own victories for that matter). It’s hard for me not to show someone the “right” way if I can see it and they can’t. But sometimes the best thing to do is let them figure it out for themselves and just be available if they need assistance or advice before or after the fact.

    “taking responsibility for the emotional spillover from one part of your life to the other”. This is a big one for me. I realize that there are a lot of things going on in people’s lives at any given moment but I have would hope that those things don’t start to become excuses. For myself or anyone else on the team. I’m glad I read this because it will be in the back of my mind now and I can fight against those tendencies.

  9. Good discussion on this one - thanks everybody.

    I'm amazed at how much discussion was generated on the #4 point about emotional spillover. Let me just cap this all off by saying that, though I tend towards the overly ideal on this point ("nothing else should distract you from the leadership task at hand"), I don't actually believe that this kind of super-human behavior is what God has called us to. Thanks to Laura for bringing this one into the light.

    This is one reason why this leadership community is so very important to us here. You can't really look to your team so much for support in the other areas of your life, because that can violate the "leadership contract." But we still need a supportive community of peers. That's part of what we're setting up here.

    So take care of each other, okay? ;-)


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