Monday, April 27, 2015

The cost of personal growth

Leaders must be committed to personal growth. One cannot lead people further than he or she has gone. Failing to grow as a leader means that the leader will fail to lead his or her church or organization to its full potential.  However, there is a cost to personal growth that many people never talk about. A decision to grow sometimes means that relationships are lost.

When I was first saved I had a number of friends where I worked that did not share my new faith. Some of the things I used to do with them I no longer was interested in doing. We slowly drifted apart while I found new friends who had the same interests I had. When I became a pastor there were people who were not happy with that decision. Some of them tried to talk me out of doing that, and when they failed they were soon not around very long.

A number of years ago an interesting experiment was done with monkeys. Several were placed in a cage with bananas hanging from the top. When a monkey would climb up to get a banana it would be sprayed with water from a hose. This happened to each of the monkeys. One of the monkeys was then taken out of a cage and replaced with another one. As it climbed up to get a banana the others pulled it down so it wouldn't get sprayed. The experimenters continued to replace the monkeys until there were no monkeys in the cage that had been sprayed. It didn't matter. When one would try to get a banana the others would pull it down. Since they couldn't have a banana they didn't want any monkey to get a banana.

This is the way some people are. For whatever reason they have decided to stop growing, and now they don't want anyone else to grow either. They will try to discourage you from growing, and if they can't do that they will end their relationship with you. Your growth reminds them of their failure to grow so it's just easier to avoid you.

While it can be painful to lose relationships with people you have known for a long time, it is often helpful to remind yourself that you are not the one who walked away. This is a choice the other people made. It can also be a blessing in disguise. It is very hard to grow if you are surrounded by people who do not want to grow. In fact, one of the best ways to grow as a leader is to spend time with other leaders who are further along in their own growth than you are. Their growth will motivate you, and they are often willing to share the things they have learned along the way with you.

I've heard John Maxwell speak several times, and one of the stories he sometimes tells is how as a young leader he made appointments to spend an hour with well-known leaders. In fact, he offered to pay them for an hour of their time. Many of the people he contacted was willing to meet with him. He would go to these meetings with questions written down that he wanted to ask in order to maximize his time with them. Not only did he learn much from these encounters, it also motivated him to continue to grow as a leader.

One of the leadership laws that Maxwell teaches is that we have to give up in order to grow up. One of the things will often have to give up is our relationships with people who are not interested in growing. Again, it's not that we walk away from those relationships, but it is often the case that they will walk away. As painful as that can be, it is often one of the costs we must pay if we are committed to personal growth.

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