Over the summer, with some major career transitions approaching, I took some time to reflect on what I’ve learned about leadership during my first decade in the workforce. My context has been leadership in a Christian ministry organization, but I believe the principles are fairly universal. This is the second post of seven.
I’ve always thought that titrating was both fun and weird. In Chemistry 101 they were all about making you stand at your bench for hours titrating acid-base solutions. To titrate, you have a solution and you want to know the concentration. So very slowly (drop by drop) you add a solution with a known concentration, and you look for some sort of change (for example, you might have an indicator that turns pink when it gets to a certain acidity, and then you can calculate the concentration by the volume of known liquid you added). You want to add the exact number of drops to achieve the change.
That sounds boring. But it’s actually very exciting. They should sell tickets to the freshman chemistry labs. I would pay like 7 cents for that.
You’re adding, cautiously at first. Then you begin adding quickly and carelessly as you get bored and demoralized, and the solution stays clear…
….but then you start to think that maybe something’s about to change (chemist’s intuition), so you slow down and look more closely, then slower, and slower…. THEN OMG IT’S PINK, IT’S PINK!!
Leadership is like that. I heard about a public health intervention last week in which the program planners built partnership with the community for FOUR YEARS before beginning the program. It took four years of design, learning, listening, and trust-building before the community was ready. But then, suddenly, the time was right. The solution turned pink.
Prayer is another example. Periodically I will develop vision for a certain outcome happening on campus, or in someone’s life, or even in my own spiritual life. I’ll pray, diligently and fervently at first. Then I’ll slow down, begin to lose interest. My commitment to prayer will wax and wane, depending on my mood, but then, OMG IT HAPPENED, THE PRAYER WAS ANSWERED!!
Leadership keeps you on the edge of your seat. You learn and pray and work, and nothing changes, UNTIL IT DOES. And even though you know what happened, it’s still mysterious, because you can’t SEE the groundwork being laid, you can’t see the movement of the Holy Spirit – just like you can’t see a lot of what is most fascinating in science and the universe.