The Invisible But Critical Parts of Leadership

This week, contractors began on some work at Southview that the county has required us to do.  Two sides of our property are bordered by a stormwater drainage system that we are required to maintain.  It’s not something anyone really notices when they drive by or onto our lot, but it’s very important to ensure that stormwater flows the proper direction and into the proper places.

IMG_3586Every year, the county inspects 20% of the stormwater system on properties throughout the county, so every five years, we get a report from them with a list of what we need to do to maintain our piece of the system.  Last November, we got the report, and it was the most substantial list of needed work on this system that the church has seen in it’s history.  It’s about a $35K project right now, and not something we were expecting.

There is a pipe that runs under the driveway to the church – you can see it in the picture to the left.  This pipe was put in when the church was built in 1982/1983.  Over time, the pipe has degraded.  It’s normal wear and tear, and in this case, the bottom third of the pipe is gone – rusted away.

No one has really paid attention to this pipe.  It’s under the driveway, and it opens out into the drainage swale – not a place anyone really hangs out!  But when it stops working, what happens?

That’s right – nothing good.

IMG_2474Check out the next picture – this is what happened in a recent storm.

“Lake Southview” is the result of this pipe not doing it’s job.

How important is a pipe that runs under a driveway?  How important is something that almost no one ever sees or pays attention to?

Quite.

And so it is with leadership.

The “invisible” parts of leadership are those parts that are not done on the stage or in the meeting.  It’s the foundational work, the internal work that is done in you before you step foot on the platform, write the first word, or speak the first sentence.  And, just like this pipe under the driveway, it is critical.

It’s easy for leaders to focus the vast majority (or even all) of our time on the deliverables – those things that people see, read, or hear.  But if we do so at the cost of neglecting the “invisible” parts – self-evaluation, intentional leadership development, being mentored by those farther down the road than we are, reading inside and outside our field, and so on – then over time we will find that we have less and less to bring to the platform, to the page, or to the meeting.  By neglecting the “invisible” work, we drastically and negatively impact the work that is seen and shared.

It takes time. It’s not going to just happen. I’ve never seen anyone wake up one day and magically find that they had grown as a leader accidentally – it takes intentional effort and focus. But it’s never wasted effort and focus.

Every year, I put together an intentional plan for my personal leadership development.  Have you done that for 2016?  It’s not just going to happen – you have to be intentional.

I spend time weekly reading books inside and outside my field, learning from others. I spend time weekly listening to podcasts or workshop recordings from other leaders (again, inside and outside my field). And a few times a year, I go to conferences to learn in person from other leaders. I believe you can learn from anyone, and that principles can cross fields and disciplines. We just have to apply the proper filters and contextualize what we learn.

I share what I do with you not to say “look at me” – I’ve got a long way to go as a leader!  But my hope is that by sharing some specifics from my life, it will encourage you to take a step and make one or more of these a staple in your own life and leadership. It won’t just be you that benefits – your team and those you lead will thank you for this!

Take a lesson from the pipe under the driveway.  Be intentional, and make sure you’re spending regular time every week on the “invisible” parts of your leadership.

What is your plan this week to spend some time on the “invisible” parts of your leadership?

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One thought on “The Invisible But Critical Parts of Leadership

  1. This seems almost too obvious to include here, but it’s one of the most important pieces of ethical leadership. The way you’re viewed – and who you actually are – can be judged by how you treat others, regardless of how society views them. “All men are created equal” doesn’t mean that everyone’s the same, or has equal potential and talents, but it does mean that everyone’s of equal worth, and deserves to be treated so.

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