This is part 1 in a 4 part series on leading in weakness.
Part 2 – When Our Best Isn’t Enough: From Control to Acceptance
Part 3 – From Passivity to Empowerment
Part 4 – From Expectation to Gratitude: The Greatest Poverty of All
I’ve been drawn to the important topic of weakness in leadership, especially in light of my experiences in the past months. During the holidays, my entire family wrestled with illness, between a stomach virus that’s been going around, and other forms of illness. For a good portion of the past month, either I or they were in extreme states of weakness. There was one time when I was battling a debilitating headache, and I recall simply having to sit for two hours straight, not able to do anything but wait until my nausea and pain had eased. It certainly wasn’t fun, especially as I watched my wife carry the load of work and stress for the family.
However, I realized that in the past my first reaction to this kind of illness or weakness was insecurity. I would try to push through and do things anyway, and when I couldn’t, feel insecure that I couldn’t do or contribute more. Because I was so focused on myself, I failed to see and appreciate everything my wife and others in my family were doing. Sometimes I would even take out my stress on them, due to my frustration at my limitations ‒ making them feel even worse, which was the exact opposite of what I really wanted.
This year was different. Instead of trying to push through, I was struck by what my wife was doing to serve our family. When I couldn’t do anything but sit in a state of weakness, I simply looked at her and said, “Thank you for everything you are doing. I need you right now, and I am so grateful for you.” I felt an overflowing appreciation in my soul, rather than my insecurity of the past.
As I’ve been growing and learning what it means to lead in weakness, a huge part of this is recognizing my own limitations. We will all have times when we won’t be able to do as much as we’d like or want. As we get older, we start to lose the capacities and abilities we once had and this can be humbling and frustrating. But in these experiences, there’s also the opportunity to let others be strong for us. There’s the opportunity to notice their strengths and gifts, when we are weak and incomplete. And there’s the immeasurable gift of recognizing how blessed we are to be so loved by others.
As I grow in leading not just in my strengths but in my weaknesses, this is my prayer: “Lord, let me be generous with my time and resources, and grant me the strength to serve others with my whole heart. And when I am not strong, let me be generous in my gratitude and appreciation of those who are. May I know the joy and blessedness of letting others be strong for me. Amen.”