Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Passing the Baton 1 - The Responsibility Baton

IN 2008 it was Beijing. In 2012 it will be London. In 2016 it could be Madrid,  Tokyo, Rio De Janeiro or even my hometown of Chicago. Many of us are captivated by the Summer Olympic Games held every four years. One of my favorite events is the relay which occurs in track and field. I like it because it is a team event, and not the achievement of an individual athlete, and also because of the drama that surrounds the critical hand off, the passing of the baton from one runner to the next. It is invariably where races are won or lost.

It is a privilege to be asked to speak to you on this assigned topic. Among the many key responsibilities that come along with senior leadership is that of developing others to their full potential as leaders. It determines the future health and strength of any organisation. It has been a challenge to consider this topic in regards to my own ministry as I prepared this paper.

I was not asked to do a research paper or write a sermon on the topic, but rather to speak from my own experience. That was helpful. It frees me to look back and draw upon personal history. The faces of men and women with whom I have served quickly come to mind. Some are present in this room today and I am grateful to them. Also stirred up are mixed memories of frustration, conflict, joy, success, failure, laughter, pain, heartbreak, victory, and disappointment. In the end this is the stuff leadership and leadership development is made of.

It is not a science, although technical books abound on the subject. What we are talking about cannot be reduced to a set of skills or some sort of automated process. Neither is it exclusively an art form where one can take an inert lump of clay and mould it into a finished work through purely creative, artistic means. Rather it is more like the relationship between the athlete and her or his coach. It takes elements of natural talent and physical attribute, adding to them skill enhancement, emotional resilience, mental toughness and, for the purpose of this discussion, spiritual maturity.

It does require both a commitment and a plan if this process is to exist in any organisational environment. An internal culture must be created which encourages people, both those in leadership and those in subordinate roles, to think in these terms. It should become normal and expected that these types of relationships will exist and will be valued and nurtured.

The key word that surfaces is 'relationship' and that really serves to define what we are talking about. At the risk of over-simplifying, the ultimate success in preparing anyone for anything in any leadership field flows from the creation of a healthy relationship. I maintain this is especially true in the context of Christian ministry and is where we must focus our attention.

Barry C. Swanson
USA Central Territory

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