I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be wrong, and about how that connects to vulnerability. In particular, I’ve been thinking about these things in leaders. One of my favorite pastors to listen to in the whole history of the world is Matt Chandler, and I think part of the reason I love listening to him is that he admits to struggles of the heart (wrongs). There’s something magical about someone you admire admitting and trudging through the wrong.
Good leaders model vulnerability, I think.
But good leaders also avoid being wrong – not 100% of the time, because that’s impossible, but most of it.
Which puts leaders into a crappy position.
Most of the time, we choose our leaders based on a prolonged period of rightness, and we keep them as leaders when they deal with their first wrong correctly. And so, for the most part, we expect leaders to be invulnerable, but then in their weakest moments – those moments following a wrong – we expect the opposite. We expect… nay, we demand vulnerability.
I have a problem with vulnerability. A problem that is completely intertwined with my problem with being wrong. In the present tense.
I don’t mind past errors. In fact, I like talking about them because they give me a chance to laugh at myself and they give me an opportunity to think about how much more awesome I am now 🙂
Kathryn Schultz gave an amazing TED talk I watched a couple of weeks ago. It was about being wrong, and she said some pretty brilliant things.
“We get it [that everyone is wrong sometimes] in the abstract…”
My thoughts: I have a ridiculously active brain. It knows that it isn’t always right, but there’s this weird thing it keeps having to do. My mind is having to drag my heart along behind it. My heart doesn’t accept wrong.
She also said:
“I can’t actually think of anything I’m wrong about…”
My thoughts: Okay, this part of the video is funny because I can think of a bamillion things I’m wrong about right now. I’m wrong about my interactions with my roommates. I’m wrong about church. I’m wrong about the boy I like. I’m wrong about my manuscript. Like I said above, my problem isn’t in the thinking – which may sound like I’m being arrogant, but I promise you I’m not. I’d much prefer having an intellect problem to having a heart problem.
Illustrative Story Thing: Harry Potter is a theme in my classroom. It’s a part of my classroom managament plan and a fun source of competition. I divide my students into houses at the beginning of the year, and they spend every day in class, earning points that go to their house in the house cup competition… which means that just about every year, students ask me which house is the best. I always say Hufflepuff, which causes much dissent. Students generally think of Hufflepuff as lame. I tell them that Hufflepuffs have heart.
I clearly am NOT a Hufflepuff. No matter how badly I’d like to be, I’m more easily placed in any of the other houses than in Hufflpuff. Bravery? Yep. I’m a decent amount brave. Ambition? Yep. I’d fit right in with those evil Slytherins. Intellect? Yeah.
What I struggle with is heart – I have the bad kind of heart that is horrible and evil like everyone has… but add to that the fact that I nearly always overrule my heart with head, and what we have is unheart. Absence of heart. Or maybe restraint of heart is a better way to put it. My mind leads and the heart follows. My roommates think I’m crazy, but I’m pretty sure you can think your heart into feeling most of the things it ought to feel. Which is partly true and partly ridiculous.
For once, though, I want to know what it’s like to be a Hufflepuff. I want to lead with heart and follow with head. I want to be loyal beyond what’s prudent. Loving past what’s justified.
Finally, Schultz said:
“By the time you’re 9 years old, you’ve already learned first of all that people who get stuff wrong are lazy, irresponsible dimwits. And second of all, that the way to succeed in life is to never make any mistakes. We learn these really bad lessons really well. And a lot of us… deal with them by just becoming perfect, little ‘A’ students. Perfectionists.”
Me: Unfortunately, I think this is what we make leaders into. We make them into perfectionists. And I hate that.
I hate it because that’s what I am.
I don’t want a leader who’s like me. I don’t want a leader who only shows me when he’s right. I don’t want one who’s got all of his ducks in a row.
Because all he can show me is how to be more like what I already am.
I want a leader who shows me how to be wrong. And vulnerable. At the same time.
But oh, how when Atlas shrugs, we all freak out! Because infallible leaders hold the heavens on their shoulders.
Leaders have to be completely vulnerable while never truly shrugging.
SO…. ANNOUNCEMENT: I’m taking a week-long hiatus to fully embrace the shrug I’m currently shrugging and the wrong I’m currently being (…SOOOOO not directly comparing myself to Atlas right now. I know I’m not a Titan). I’ll be back around May 16th with a post for you, but don’t expect much from STILL GROWING until next month, because we teachers become rather busy right about now. I’ll probably schedule some posts for you to read next week. I’ve got some reblogs and whatnot, but I won’t be checking in if I can help it, and I won’t be responding to comment.
I hope while I’m surrendering to the shrug, my readers will also take some time to be okay with being wrong. Have a peaceful week, and see you all soon.