It was strange. I was at lunch with a leader I respect and he had just said, “I honestly feel like quitting.” And yet because he carried himself with such maturity and wisdom, I didn’t really take his words that seriously. I assumed my leader would figure things out and bounce back, like he always did.
But what if he was really struggling? And what if I couldn’t see his pain because I had idealized him and his leadership?
Are there leaders in our lives whom we might idealize, or think too highly of?
Do we need to re-humanize the leaders and spokespeople whom we admire and trust?
If a pastor shares his struggle with depression, I don’t want to just dismiss what he shared because he’s a wise and mature leader. Just because a mother of a Down’s Syndrome child is able to share or write about some deep spiritual insight she’s learned through her experience, that doesn’t make her special needs challenges any less severe.
I recently read an interview with singer-songwriter Adam Duritz (of “Counting Crows” fame) who put it like this: “It’s not like you break up with someone, write a song about it, and that makes it okay to lose them.”
Sometimes we look to our leaders to make some sense of our world. And that’s perfectly normal … many of their sermons, articles, and songs have gotten me through the darkest and hardest times of my life. But these leaders and spokespeople are humans too, and let’s not forget that their struggles are just as real as ours. And leadership can be a lonely journey for some.
So the next time you hear a leader share vulnerably about a struggle or challenge, don’t just assume they’ll be fine. Instead, approach him or her and say: “I’d love to hear more about that struggle you shared … it doesn’t sound easy, and I’d love to be a support in any way I can.”
It may be the first time anyone’s ever done that for them … and treated them just as we all want to be treated … as a human.