Narayanan Krishnan (pictured on the left) is an award-winning chef from Madurai, Tamil Nadu in India. He has worked with prestigious hotels for many years, including the Taj Hotels in Bangalore, and was on the short list for an elite job in Switzerland. Until something happened, something that compelled him to make a dramatic turn toward the extraordinary.
I found out about Gregg and the PS22 Chorus (Public School #22) a few weeks ago through a random “related” link on YouTube. And for the next hour or more, I was absolutely mesmerized by song after song that this ordinary 5th grade chorus from Stanton Island had uploaded to the internet. Amazing stuff–see for yourself. And I’m not the only one to think so. Since their debut on YouTube, the PS22 Chorus has been visited by numerous high-profile musical artists as well as actors. They’ve stood together on some pretty famous stages, and even performed at the White House. As I watched video after video, I really wanted to know: Who is this guy who’s been able to create this national phenomenon out of a bunch of ordinary 5th graders? This short video gave me the answer:
Perhaps we don’t look often enough to public school teachers as examples of great leadership, but here is one case it would benefit any leader to explore. What is it about Gregg’s leadership that inspires his students to stretch so far and achieve so much–far more than most 5th graders in most schools around the country (public or otherwise)? What does he offer those he leads that empowers them to shine so brilliantly?
It’s obvious, isn’t it? It’s love. It’s that passionate, joyful pour-my-soul-out-for-you kind of love. It’s not hard at all to imagine that Gregg would go the mat for any one of his students. It’s not hard to imagine that he fights for them, believes in them, delights in them, and pushes them hard. Because that’s what love does. You can see it clearly, even in a 4-minute video.
I can’t help but wonder, “What is stopping me from leading more like Gregg? What would that look like for me? What is the path?”
If love is a verb, then…
Do you love the people you lead? What might be possible for them (and for you) if you loved them even more?
So if you’re a car, then Leadership Capacity relates to the amount of payload you can carry at any one time. How much weight can you handle, how many people can you carry, before your engine overheats and breaks down under the strain?
There are two kinds of capacity that fall under this heading—task capacity, and relational capacity. Leadership in a church or other faith-based organization certainly involves some task capacity—that is, how many tasks or projects you can handle all at once without getting tanked. For the most part, however, most burnout among ministry professionals is connected to relational capacity—that is, the maximum number of people you can effectively invest in and care for at any one time. It will come as no surprise to say that not everyone has the same relational capacity. You probably know some people who have a really high relational capacity (you might even be one of them!); and you also know people who quickly experience overwhelm anytime they have more than just a handful of others that they invest in relationally. Several factors can contribute to your relational capacity: whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, how relationally- or physically-taxing your ministry role is, or your current health status, just to name a few. But it’s important for you to know what your current relational capacity is as a leader, because it can help you discern what to say yes to and what to say no to as you follow God’s lead.
Here’s a quick assessment: Grab a sheet of paper and a pen. On your paper, list all the people you are currently investing in at a deep level. Don’t include casual acquaintances or co-workers you don’t spend time with outside the office. Focus on your significant spiritual relationships in each of these categories:
- Those you are investing in as a current team member and/or future leader
- Your immediate family, and other close family members
- Your “inner circle” of friends
- People outside your faith in whom you are actively investing relationally
When you’re finished, get curious about your list:
- What stands out to you as you look at your list?
- Would you say that you are currently under capacity, at capacity, or over capacity as a leader? What is pointing you to that conclusion?
- How did you get here? In other words, what drove you to create your current level of relational investment?
- What’s the question you want to take to God about this issue?
One awesome thing about being a leader who has fully surrendered your life to God is that your life becomes “Spirit driven” rather than “need driven.” If we try to respond to every need that we see around us, or help every person who comes to us with a request, we will all get tanked and burn out as leaders (no matter how big your relational capacity is!). The goal of ministry leadership isn’t to respond to every need, but to follow God’s Spirit. Where is he pointing you? What is he telling you to do? Who is he leading you to invest in? You don’t have to do it all. You just have to do what he is telling you to do. Authentic spiritual leadership is as much about knowing what to say no to as it is about knowing what to say yes to.