How To Avoid Stagnancy And Burnout
A lesson learned from the Bible’s account of Creation
There is something we all know to be true: teamwork makes the dream work. From helpful products to delicious meals, board room meetings to entrepreneurial enterprises, collaboration is a necessary component. Take everyday products for example. My laptop, notebook, and watch are all comprised of a diverse arrangement of individual working parts. When any of the parts are broken or missing, the collection suffers and becomes ineffective and in need of repair. It malfunctions and ceases to perform as it was intended. Similarly, the health and success of the employees and products within organizations require all components to work together, and none more important than its leadership. A good leader can notice which components are malfunctioning and offer effective solutions. But what happens if such a leader isn’t in place? Or what if the leader is oblivious to its company or product’s shortcomings? Components fail or fall out of place and all that was built begins to crumble. Organizations can quickly burn out their employees, or they can slip into stale stagnancy, empty of flavor and vibrancy. So how does an organization keep this deconstruction from taking place? Surprisingly, if we go back to the creation account of book of Genesis, we can find some interesting insights.
In the creation account, mankind is depicted as an individual component of a much larger system, namely the world and all that is within it. Part of the duty of mankind, along with enjoying relationship with its Maker, each other, and the world they are in, was to work and watch over the garden. Mankind was placed within the world system to work it, or cultivate it, and to watch over it, or keep and protect it. This is an interesting task given to humanity from the very outset of the story. And from this task we can glean some foundational insights into organizational leadership that are woven into the very fabric of who we are and what our purpose is here on Earth.
Oftentimes organizations are spearheaded by a person with individual passions and interests. This person tends to be the main player shouldering the burden of getting the organization or company off the ground. They are the decision maker and forger of the pathway leading to accomplishing the organizatinal goals and vision. This individual is typically very entrepreneurial in nature, full of zeal and innovation with an apt ability for creative porblem solving and vision-casting. Taking our cues from Eden, these leaders can be identified as workers or cultivators. Although this type of leader plays an integral role to any organization, when left alone, this type of leader can leave a wake of broken people, disrupted systems, and unstable structures that make the organization extremely vulnerable to crisis and brevity.
However, there is another side to the equation which brings necessary balance to leadership within an organization. Sadly, this other side is too often neglected due to a lack of easily noticeable flash and charisma (If this is you, you may benefit from Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking). This is the type of leader skilled at creating an environment of healthy structure, accountability, and pace that allows for long-term, sustained growth and scaling. This leader can be identified as a watcher or keeper according to what is laid out in Eden. They balance the culture of the company so that it lasts. They protect the company from extinguishing the life out of its employees, from manipulating its customers for quicker growth, and from losing focus on its goals and vision. However, this type of leader left alone tends to circle the wagons, shelter the tribe, and avoid any risk. They may be prone to withdraw from strategic growth for fear of experiencing any loss or failure.
Alone, these leaders can create toxic cultures that hinder success and harm those involved. Sadly, there are great organizations and companies with incredible goals aimed at a beautiful vision to serve the common good whose dreams and hopes will never be realized due to poor leadership and harmful organizational cultures. But if an organization is focused on both working and watching, on cultivating and keeping, then long-term, healthy, slow, consistent growth can lead to the fulfillment of the companies dreams. The good of our world is at stake. The design we have been given from Eden ought to be seriously considered by all those serving on boards or leading in any fashion within an organization or company.
Here are some practical steps to move towards a healthier organization that recognizes and respects the tension of keeping and cultivating:
1) Identify what type of leader you are
There are plenty of personality profile and aptitude tests out there to analyze who you are and what type of leadership style is natural to you (Meyers-Briggs, RightPath, Highlands Battery Assessment, Birkman Method). The first step in creating a healthier organizational culture is to know yourself. What do the tests say about you? What do your friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers say about you? Becoming comfortable and confident in your own leadership style is essential to long-term health and success of you and your organization.
2) Identify others you can work with who are the opposite
Once you know whether you are a cultivator or a keeper, the next step is ensuring that you are not leading in isolation. This is obviously easier said than done, but it is so essential that it is worth the work. If you are prone to be more entrepreneurial and innovative, always seeking how to grow, forging new paths, then seek out someone who is adept at building structures and systems for accountability and sustainable pace. Likewise, if you have a proclivity towards being able to ensure quality, towards seeking out the welfare of those around you, and towards having a vision that is long-term, then make sure you have a risky visionary at your side that will push you into new territory.
3) Expect growing pains
For most of us, thinking about working so closely with someone so different may induce a slight gag reflex. That’s okay. Take a breath, drink some water, and read on. Begin by recognizing there’s probably a reason why isolated leadership is more prevalent. It’s easier. Working with people who think, believe, and operate differently is incredibly difficult. It requires tons of patience, extremely clear communication, and proper expectations. Ultimately, it requires humility and trust. Recognizing what strengths you possess as a leader also requires that you recognize your weaknesses. Your weaknesses are opportunities to ask for help from others and experience their expertise. Weaknesses force us to work with others and to existence in community so that we can enjoy the rewarding experience of effective teamwork. Building trust within working relationships at the leadership level will take work and time. Be patient and be persistent. Expect growing pains along the way. Growing pains hurt, but they help. Recognizing them as temporary pains that are part of the process allows you to actually embrace and enjoy the process, grow along the way, and offer grace to all parties involved.
So a healthy organization or company that grows and does the good it dreams of will require workers and cultivators who possess the skills and personality to move the vision forward. It will need pacesetters and sprinters. It will also require watchers and keepers who possess the skills and personality to protect and sustain the efforts and vision. It will need pace-keepers and marathoners. Both of these individuals are necessary components that comprise a beautifully complete organizational structure. These components have been around since the beginning, handed down from Eden, and therefore are essential to flourishing.