Leadership vs. Teamwork

Grunt work - getting your hands dirty.Sunday is a great day to reflect and, if you’re lucky, to be inspired. I got lucky yesterday and heard a great message by our Pastor, Joe Elkerton, at the Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship. It was on leadership.

It made me think how our society is so focused on “leadership” but seems to forget what really makes things work – service. Everyone wants to be a great leader but we’ve all forgotten how to get any real work done. Who does the grunt work? Who gets their hands dirty?

A quick search on Google turns up 185 million results for leadership and only 22.5 million for teamwork. (less than 5% of the sites dealing with teamwork were related to the church or Christianity) How are we getting any work done? Well, the answer is simple – We’re not. As a society we have a fixation with celebrity and stardom. Not just in sports and entertainment, but in politics, government, business and public works. We think it is great leaders who accomplish great works. I don’t think this is exclusively a characteristic of Western society but it seems to have been taken to the extreme here in North America.

Marshall McLuhan said, “The medium is the message”. (Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, 1964) Basically that the media influence and even overshadow the messages or information being delivered to us. Those media have changed drastically since McLuhan coined the phrase. Not just print, radio, film or television, now the internet and video hold the place of preeminence with a host of new delivery technologies – on-demand, podcasts, mobile messaging, streaming video, HD-DVD, HDTV, MP3, iTunes, P2P, satellite, Twitter,  Facebook. A raging torrent of information roars to capture our attention and the primary means the agents of delivery utilize to achieve this is still that old Hollywood magic act – the “Star”.

In 1968 artist Andy Warhol said, ” In the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes” which has morphed into our idea of 15 seconds of fame. Warhol was reading the pulse of evolving media delivery and how it shaped society around us. It is mirrored in U.S. presidential races. We’ve just seen the Obama – Clinton parade go by for the democratic nomination and now we will witness the the most stupendous circus act of all – Who will be the next president of the United States? Barack Obama or John McCain? All of the world shaping issues that affect the daily lives of every person on the planet will be distilled down to into some live streaming version of American Idol. I wouldn’t be suprised to see some future election decided by voters texting their choice to a five digit number from their cellphone.

This is leadership miscontrued. The personal glorification raised above the interests of the public good. And we all want it for ourselves. We want to be leaders, we want to be stars, we want to be famous, if only for fifteen minutes. As a matter of fact, we want this so much that many of us choose infamy rather than obscurity. Ask any corporate public relations person and they’ll tell you “even bad press is good publicity”.

In the workplace, in school, in the public shere, we all want to lead (or think we should). Very few are willing to serve and follow. The church is not immune. Perhaps it is even more susceptible to the star making machinery. Witness the excesses visited upon Christians everywhere hungry to cozy up to the next prophet, looking for their share of the fame. How many churches hold leadership seminars?

No really great leader in the bible asked for the job. Rather they were called from positions of service. As a matter fo fact, like Moses or Jonah, they tried to decline the calling.  We need to do the same. Rather than seeking for opportunities to use our skills to lead others, we need to seek opportunites to serve. We need to get our hands dirty, even when there’s no one recording the moment on camera to post photos on Facebook. Pick up the garbage, sweep out the corners, carry the burden, bind the wounds, offer the cool drink of water. Join the team. It already has a captain, coach and superstar – Jesus Christ.

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