Let's not talk fishing, but levels of leadership. Yes, there are levels. Whatever arena you lead in (even just your own personal leadership) there are many levels. Now, I'm not sure you can measure or classify them as easily as a 1-10 scale, but what I want to share with you today is that there are many levels of leadership, many levels of excellence, many levels of competence; and you'll never arrive at the top. As they say, there's always a bigger fish. If you're a fish, this is bad, because this means you'll eventually be eaten. As a leader, this is great news, because it means there is always someone you can learn from! This concept has been stirring around inside of me lately, but yesterday I had the privilege of spending some personal time with Blake Stanley from Mountain Lake Church in Atlanta. The dude is a big fish and my time with him reminded me again of this point I want to make to you today. First, though, let me share with you how I got to this understanding.
My first ten years in church leadership were in a mid-sided church that was doing some great things. We were part of a decent sized denomination and the main "world" we interacted with, from a leader-to-leader standpoint were those from churches in our community and the district from our denomination. Now, here's where I got off track. Even though I had a solid amount of networking and exposure to other leaders, my pond was relatively small. And since our church was one of the largest and most influential in our small pond, I was usually a big(ish) fish. Where I got into trouble was that I didn't realize there were bigger fish in bigger ponds. Because my exposure and my pond were limited, I began to think I was a much bigger fish than I really was. Of course, there was the issue of personal arrogance, which is a totally different (and serious) issue. But, here, I'm addressing the structure and exposure problems that existed for me and do exist for many leaders.
Now, sure I had "exposure" to nationally known, high-level, leaders. I went to conferences. I listened to leadership podcasts, etc, but I never spent time in the presence of those big fish. And if you've never spent time in the presence of the big fish of your world, you're missing a lot and you're stunting your own growth. It's easy to hear a conference speaker, agree with what he says and fool yourself into thinking your agreement puts you on par with his ability and expertise. It's just not true. He's speaking there because he's got something most of the rest of us are lacking. Embrace that lack and let it drive you to higher levels!
So, back to the levels and what I learned. In my world, I began to see myself as a big fish (maybe an 8-9 if we're using that scale), but what I found out later on is that I only looked like that big fish in my relatively small pond. I'll never forget the first time I was in an environment with some of the high level people from Life.Church. It took about 10 minutes for me to realize that I was way out of my depth. All of a sudden, I felt like a 4-5, not an 8-9. And that was unsettling for me. It was almost like I was having an identity crisis, as a leader. Ultimately, though, it's become a good thing for me. And ultimately, it will be a good thing for you if you can embrace the concept and do something about it.
In the last several years, I've had the great honor of speding some personal time with some very high-level leaders in my niche. And every time I do, the light shines on areas I need to grow in and work on. I'm so grateful for that.
So, if you want to be great, one thing you will need to do is find ways to get into the presence of those who are at a higher level than you are presently. If you're a business owner, there's more than the guys in your regional chamber. If you're a doctor, there's more than just your colleagues at your hospital. If you're a church leader, there's more than your denominational fellowship or your own city network. Recently, I wrote (here) about getting the right people into your life. You definitely should check that out. It will take this conversation deeper and there's a link to another article from Will Mancini that talks specifically about how to get into the presence of these higher level people.
Well, as always, it's up to you. Swallow your pride. Realize you don't know it all and surround yourself with the right people. I'd love to hear how this step helps you grow. Please share those wins with me, as you experience them.