Monday, August 25, 2014


So, every morning, I read the newspaper (usually the New York Times), and my favorite part of the entire newspaper is - the obituary section.  Don't' worry, I don't have a morbid curiosity, or a deathly fascination. I just enjoy reading about the contributions and the life stories of people who have come before me.  A well written obituary is like a mini-biography of great (and not so great) people.  You can learn more life lessons from a good biography (or well written obituary) than any self-help manual or motivational talk.

Last week I read a fascinating obituary about a man named James Schiro who died too young (at 68) and who was the CEO of Goldman Sachs, Pricewaterhouse and Zurich Financial.  In other words, Schiro was one of the world leaders in the financial global industry and investment strategies.  It was his lessons on leadership that have stayed with me since I read about his life:

"People don't like change, but they can manage change.  The one thing people can't handle uncertainty.  I think it is the job of leaders to eliminate uncertainty."

Schiro's right!  Change is uncomfortable.  Change forces us to evaluate the way that we have been doing things in our lives, and to alter time honored behaviors.  Change means that the rhythms that we create for our lives, ordered around the activities of our lives have to be altered.  Humans thrive on good rhythms and routines.  Most of our life rhythms are functions that our bodies and souls engage in which we don't have to think about any more.  We just, as the saying goes, "Go through the motions."  Change means that we need to begin to think again.  And thinking is hard work.

Another great leader said, "Leadership is helping people to move through change at a rate they can tolerate."

Since we have moved from Colorado to California, our family has had to go through many changes.  The stores that we once shopped in for food and clothes are different.  The computer programs that we relied upon for basic functions have needed to be changed.  The schools our daughters attend have changed.  The house that we are living in has changed.  The way that we drive from here to there has changed.  In the words of the late poet, William Butler Yeats, "All has changed, changed utterly".  And change isn't always fun, but it can be.  When changes are difficult, we have managed these changes.  And we have grown through these changes.  We know that the changes we are experiencing won't last forever.  And we are stronger because we have experienced these changes.

As Schiro says, we can manage change.  We can say to ourselves, "I'm in the midst of change, change isn't comfortable, but things will get more comfortable as we go along."

It's the second part of the thought piece which is has caused me to pause and think even more.

People can't handle uncertainty, It's the job of a good leader to eliminate uncertainty.

From a leadership standpoint, this idea makes a lot of sense.  Uncertainty in a leadership system is never helpful.  When an employee or a person who works in a large organization asks him/herself; "What am I supposed to do?  Who do I report to?  Is my role important?  Does it make a difference?  Why am I doing what I am doing?  How will I be evaluated?  What will determine my success?" it is never a good thing.  A good leader constantly helps to eliminate these uncertainties, to answer these questions.  A good leader affirms and clarifies on a daily basis the certainty of these things:

*  This is the specific task
*  This concrete task is important
*  When this task is completed that's the definition of success
*  This project is important, and crucial
*  This is where we are going as an organization
*  This is how important you are!

These are uncertainties that can be eliminated in a system.

But, as a pastor, I can say that there are uncertainties that can't be eliminated.  Life is full of uncertainties.  A good leader actually sometimes needs to be honest and say, "I actually don't know what the future will bring.  I am not sure how things will end up.  I have studied everything that can be studied, but I honestly don't know what to do in this particular situation."  People, I have found prefer honesty in the face of uncertainty over gossamer laced platitudes.

So, in the end, it isn't the elimination of uncertainty that is called for.  It's the recognition that uncertainty exists and the leader will be with them, through the thick and the thin of things.

Jesus said, "Behold, I will be with you, even until the end of the age." Jesus didn't say that we would understand all facets of life or of our changes or of our futures.  Jesus didn't say we would understand the uncertainties of our lives.  He said, "I will be with you, through all of life's uncertainties."

And that's why Jesus is someone we can be certain of!

All For Now,


No comments:

Post a Comment