Father’s Day and Embracing Responsibility

 In Pei Blog

We must see and hear the people we’re leading… even when they’re frustrated at us, or it feels unfair.  

“Message received.” 

I’ll never forget these words from my father a couple of years ago.  I had just told him how I wished he would initiate with me more, and share more openly about his thoughts and emotions.  I was feeling a bit frustrated and disappointed.  And it wasn’t the first time I had expressed this to him.

My father simply listened, nodded and gently said, “I hear you.  Message received.”

This Father’s Day, I’m reflecting on all I’ve learned about leadership from my Dad.  And one of the biggest lessons he’s taught me is to embrace responsibility. 

After all, leadership is full of responsibilities, and I don’t just mean tasks.  People look to us to make decisions, but often also to meet unresolved needs and expectations that have nothing to do with us.  As leaders, we often find ourselves the object of peoples’ frustration, anger, and disappointment. 

Sometimes it feels unfair and overwhelming.  Sometimes I want to disengage or retreat.

But I am learning that this is part of what it means to embrace responsibility as a leader.  Maybe I’m not called to fix every person’s need or meet every expectation, but to remain present in the midst of their frustration, anger, disappointment, pain.  Maybe I’m called to see what God is doing in a person’s life, and respond with love.  To say, “I see and hear you.”

That’s what my father has done for me.

That’s also what Jesus, one of the greatest leaders of all time, did.  When his friend Lazarus died, Lazarus’ sister Mary was in grief.  When Jesus finally arrived to see her, Mary said to him, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

It could have stung to hear those words of grief and disappointment.  But Jesus didn’t get defensive.  He didn’t list a number of good reasons why he wasn’t able to be there to help Lazarus.

Instead, Jesus cried.  He wept with Mary and her family.  Jesus saw their pain, and chose to “be in it” with the people he was leading.

Leadership is challenging and it’s beyond any of us.  None of us can truly handle it.  But this is a key distinction I’m learning:

When I think peoples’ frustration, anger, disappointment and pain are all about me… leadership feels like a burden.

When I see that peoples’ frustration, anger, disappointment and pain are part of the healing work God is doing in their lives… I feel privileged and honored to be part of that work.

Wherever you lead — whether your home, your church, or your workplace — don’t minimize the significance of the role you can play in others’ lives.  In the midst of the pain and the disappointment, God is there… and He is working.

Thank you, Dad, for listening to me when I was the most frustrated and disappointed — even when I was unfair or didn’t express my needs in the best way.  God has used you to grow and heal me, and I am a better leader because of it.  Happy Father’s Day.

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