Erosion, Weeds, and Riprap

The work continues this week at Southview on the stormwater drainage project!  (I’m adding the exclamation to try to make a project that is not all that exciting seem much more so!)

(Did it work?)

IMG_3590In my last post, I shared about the importance of a drainage pipe that runs under our driveway and how the “invisible” parts of leadership are critical.  Today I want to look at the other side of the driveway – the “out” side of the drainage pipe.

Our drainage system connects with that of the shopping center that is located behind our church.  You can see in the picture to the left the beautiful gray riprap that they installed in their drainage ditch to do two things:

1. Keep the water flow going the right direction and prevent blockages

2. Prevent erosion

IMG_3589On our side of the ditch, originally there was similar riprap, but that was over thirty years ago. Over time, weeds begin to sprout up, erosion overtakes the rock, and three decades later, it looks like the picture to the right.

Do you see any riprap? No, because it’s completely covered by dirt and weeds.  Thirty years have gone by, and what was evident on the surface, with a specific purpose, is now underground, covered over and unable to accomplish its purpose.

The contractors spent last week digging out the riprap by hand because of the underground gas pipelines. It was slow, back-breaking work that was no fun at all I’m sure. But it was absolutely necessary to return the stormwater system to health and vitality so that it can complete the purpose it was designed to accomplish.

It’s a lot like that with our leadership gift.  Over time, erosion happens, just like it did with the stormwater drainage ditch.  Over time, what was evident and visible in our lives – the gift of leadership and our passion for it – begins to slowly sink beneath the surface of the day-to-day task lists, meetings, phone calls, and emails.  What is important is overtaken by the urgent, but the urgent is not always important.

Erosion happens. And weeds sprout up. It’s true in nature and it’s true in every organization. Leaders have to learn to differentiate between what’s demanding our attention right now (the urgent) and what truly matters (the important).  We have to shore up against the erosion of our cultural values, mission, and vision. We have to pull the weeds that would distract from or obfuscate the clarity that is necessary to accomplish the mission and vision.  We can’t “go nuclear” and blow the whole thing up because of the weeds – we have to target the weeds, what’s growing and covering up the riprap, and get rid of that.

Andy Stanley often refers to the importance of walking up to the cage of the 500 pound gorilla and opening the door – that is, directly confronting the problems that we see and know about, but have been avoiding because of the fear we feel.  Here’s what I know: there is erosion and there are weeds in every one of our spheres of influence.  There are 500 pound gorillas we are pretending are not there. We’re avoiding them and hoping they will go away. But just like the erosion and the weeds in our drainage system, they don’t go away – they get worse and worse.  Problems don’t improve on their own most of the time.  As my friend Steve Kane says, “bad news doesn’t get better with age.” We have to square our shoulders, take a deep breath, and walk up to the problems – and deal with them.

When this project is done, the riprap will once again be visible and doing its job. The erosion will be held back for a season, the weeds will be removed, and the water can flow. It’s at a significant cost, but it will be far better because we dealt with it.

What erosion or weeds are you avoiding in your leadership right now? What’s the 500 pound gorilla you need to walk up to and deal with this week?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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