Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Loneliness of Leadership

Yesterday I finally got round to visiting 'Another Place', the art installation by sculptor Antony Gormley just north of Liverpool docks. Crosby Beach is a rather grim place to be on a drizzly January morning but I was well prepared with many protective layers and I really tried to enter into the atmosphere of the place. For me, these cast iron men staring at the horizon reminded me of the loneliness of leadership.

Don't get me wrong, 'Another Place' is not a depressing place, not at all. In fact, the figures seem to evoke a spirit of resolve and even hope, but their isolation and vulnerability is inescapable. Yes, there are 100 of these iron men on the same beach but each one is so far removed from his neighbour that it is impossible to view the sculptures together as a whole, as a community.

The life God has called me to connects me with lots of church leaders, of all traditions and denominations, I'm on first name terms with at least a hundred and work quite closely with several dozen. It's quite apparent to me that the default setting for church leaders is 'fly solo'. Of course there are exceptions but on the whole spending time developing friendships with other leaders appears a fairly low priority. This state of affairs is actually quite strange considered in the context of the struggles which are par for the course in leadership. The tragic truth is that over the years I've known several who've decided to give up on church altogether. It was these leaders that I felt my heart going out to on Crosby Beach.

I often think about my own future as a leader and wonder if I'll eventually be swamped by the tide or slowly sink into the sand. It's a possibility that I think every leader should be realistic about, nobody can say "It'll never happen to me." And so I've made this my goal, to make myself know-able to other leaders and to try to build friendships that will last. In particular I've decided not to allow doctrinal differences to dictate my relationships. Above all, I must not fly solo.

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Jez said...

completely agree

Gavin White said...

Good Post Matt - I think these sculptures are most interesting....I'm so grateful for the blessing of plurality in's all through the NT, Jesus modelled it so good to meet for a coffee soon!

Anonymous said...

I had a friend. An old friend from school days. He bacame a pastor, married and had three children. One day he did a swan dive from a bridge and killed himself.

To whom does a pastor turn when he is in need. What a sad an isolated life it must sometimes be...