Magnet Or Repellent

18-20 Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.

21-22 A short distance down the beach they came upon another pair of brothers, James and John, Zebedee’s sons. These two were sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, mending their fishnets. Jesus made the same offer to them, and they were just as quick to follow, abandoning boat and father.

Jesus as an archetype of human endeavor is an endearing and convincing story.  Jesus is the quintessential leader.  He is the most faithful friend. He is the most loyal of partners.  He is the exemplary visionary.  Whenever Jesus is portrayed with the frame of excellent human pursuit, the refrain is “of course, he would do it perfectly.  He’s God and man after all!” 

I have been reflecting particularly on his leadership qualities.  Specifically, I have been thinking about his magnetism.  In the above passage, the two groups of men follow him immediately.  There is no mention of hesitation or preparation.  They are drawn to this 30-year-old in ways that defy common sense.  How compelling is the idea of “catching men and women”?  Do they even know what that means and what will be involved for them as a life-long pursuit?  Is it that as Galileans, they have some previous knowledge of Jesus and therefore make a choice to follow based on this?  Whatever the reason for their choice to follow Christ…and to not abandon his ultimate cause, Jesus’ manner, personality and message are so positively alluring…so convincingly compelling!  In all the spaces where WE LEAD – home, work, school, community, place of worship – we have no less a task!

Shivana Khoza has had tremendous opportunities to lead.  At a young age, she was thrust into corporate leadership roles that required high degrees of technical acumen as well as social and emotional intelligence.  I will let her tell her story…

Leaders have a tremendous responsibility to their teams as they wield a direct impact on the wellbeing of their employees. Good leaders inspire the trust, commitment and dedication of their teams; good leaders have a magnetic effect on those they lead. Conversely, bad leadership is also highly effective - as a repellent! And I am not talking about the kind of repellent that keep us safe from pesky mosquitos (that seem to be bigger here in Texas!).  Rather, it is the kind of repellent that drives team members, including the most talented employees, to leave.

There are many reasons people might choose to join a company. But when it comes to exiting an organization, the reasons might be more common among leavers. Well known author, motivational speaker and business consultant Marcus Buckingham says it this way,

“The talented employee may join a company because of its charismatic leaders, its generous benefits, and its world-class training programs, but how long that employee stays and how productive he is while he is there is determined by his relationship with his immediate supervisor.”

An Inc. article by Marcel Schwantes referred to a Gallup poll that found about 50 percent of people surveyed in a study left their job “to get away from their manager to improve their overall life at some point in their career.”

Over the course of my career, I am thankful that I had some really good leaders. But I have to confess, I also experienced the other end of the spectrum, working under a very difficult manager. One of the traits I value a lot about myself is my tenacity, which has developed over the years and helped me to work well with others – even those who might be more challenging. However, the environment created by my manager was untenable and I made the difficult decision to leave the company.  

So, why do people quit their leaders?

What are these repelling traits of such managers that lead employees to quit? John Maxwell, in his book The Self Aware Leader, summarizes them this way:

Leaders who repeatedly demean, disrespect and devalue others.

Untrustworthiness, demonstrated by such behaviors as withholding information, lying, being close-minded, seeking personal gain above the interests of the team and organization.

Incompetent leaders. This is not just the competence required for the field of work, but also competence in leadership skills and managing different personality styles as well as different skills levels. The leader’s competence directly impacts the development of the team.

Insecure leaders. This can be one of the strongest repellants as an insecure leader acts from a place of fear, suspicion, distrust and even jealousy. While competence can help a leader to develop members of a team, an insecure leader suffocates the growth and progress of the team.

We must know our worth, and not succumb to the devaluation others try to force on us. Sometimes, that means we must choose to leave a toxic work environment because it is imperative for our own well-being.

I am all for taking personal responsibility in any situation we face in life, so this is not about saying bad managers are the only cause of a difficult work environment and they are definitely not the only reason employees leave. But because of the effect leaders have through their position, the impact they have on the workplace is amplified.

As leaders, how do you honor the tremendous responsibility you bear for your teams? Do you want to be the kind of leader that repels, or do you want to exemplify the magnetic traits that make you the kind of leader others want to follow?

The great news is that leadership skills are learned, so anyone who is willing to do the work can improve and become an effective leader, whether at work or otherwise.

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