Leadership is not a Kayak

When I think of leadership, I think of a person in charge. Yet, to be in charge implies there is someone to be in charge of-and I believe that starts with one’s self. When I looked up leadership, Webster defined it as, “the action of leading a group of people or an organization. A leader is someone who is responsible for attaining results, usually with other people, in a joint effort to accomplish a goal.” I was pretty close. Leadership does begin at home but not home alone. True leadership involves a full crew, pulling together to keep the ship both afloat and heading to the farther shore. Being a sole kayaker is an awesome feeling, there is a place for solitude, of that there is no doubt. However, leadership implies we debark from our kayak and contribute to the navigation of the self as well as other folk. “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” So, spoke Antoine de Saint Exupery, French writer and pioneering aviator.

Upon reflection within our Unitarian Universalist context, I resonate fully with our concept of congregational polity or the idea that leadership rests with the congregation as a whole. That means, in a sense, that everyone who is reading this blog is a leader. I wonder why the word leadership strikes terror in the hearts of some of us? The idea of serving and being responsible seems to be a daunting task for many congregants. Why is that? I think it has something to do with the belief that a leader is alone. News Flash–within Unitarian Universalist congregations, congregations have the power of leadership. A congregant is never alone-unless they have failed to get the memo or the message.

UUCP members are leaders, by tradition and by declaration. Getting to really know your fellow ship mates as people with a dream, folks with a story to tell and listening in a meaningful way may lead to alliances and agreements to live into our faith together, as leaders. What’s at risk for us to claim it? What’s the payoff? I offer it is the same payoff one gets when one gives an anonymous gift, somehow it lifts the Spirit. We serve others to become bigger and better selves. Ah, the paradox of giving in order to really receive. It can be scary, but so what? I guess I’m on a French ship because another Frenchman named Napoleon comes to mind to encapsulate my leadership offering this day; “A leader is a dealer, in hope.”