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The ability to lead is a rare gift. The opportunity to lead is just as precious.
Have you ever thought about whether you’re worthy of these gifts?
I had the honor and privilege to be asked to speak at an organ donation dinner and celebration last night. The gentleman before me on the agenda, my friend Tim, spoke about “the gift of donation,” while I spoke about “the gift of receiving.”
Tim’s presentation is about his daughter Samantha who lost her life in a car accident on the way to school one rainy morning when she was a senior in high school. Part of his presentation involves a slide show of Samantha growing up, set to moving music, concluding with a photo of Samantha and her boyfriend all dressed up for the Homecoming dance just 10 days before she died. She was spectacularly beautiful.
Tim talked achingly about what he’s missed out on…seeing her graduate, watching her go off to college, dancing with her at her wedding, playing with his grandchildren that will never be…
He then spoke about the gift of organ donation – how Samantha was able to help save 25 people through her gift of life, and how he was so moved by his experiences speaking about Samantha’s gift that he himself chose to donate his kidney last May to someone he’s never met. There was not a dry eye in the room and, truth be told, I have tears streaming down my face even as I write this.
And so I got up to speak about the gift of receiving.
I was supposed to be the “happy” part of the program and yet I was moved to talk about the difficulty for recipients in knowing that – for most recipients – someone like Samantha had to lose their life in order for us to live ours. Though there is a miracle in this gift there is deep pain as well. We know that it helps the families to heal by knowing that their loved one is helping us to live, and yet, how do you reconcile your own sense of gain with the extraordinary loss felt by others?
In my case, my donor gave consciously and wholeheartedly. She told me that she felt it was what God had meant for her to do and that she didn’t need that extra kidney and so very genuinely wanted me to have it.
My friend Rob Rose wrote to me once that he heard, “a true gift is one that someone wants to receive.” I absolutely wanted the gift, and the way it was given made it so easy for me to receive – and yet – I struggle to this day with feelings of unworthiness.
“What makes me worthy to receive the gift of someone else’s life?
We don’t really think about whether we’re worthy to receive birthday gifts or Christmas gifts or graduation gifts. But what about the other, more significant gifts in our life – should we reflect on our worthiness to receive and, if so, our responsibility to do something with them?
Which brings me full circle to leadership. What makes someone worthy of being a leader?
I believe in my heart that the ability to be a truly great leader is a gift that many people have within them, but that the self-awareness to bring it out and make it sing is actually rare.
I also believe that having the opportunity to lead – being put in a position of leadership over others – is a gift not to be taken for granted.
Deep down inside I know that my worthiness to receive the gift of life is very simple; purely by being an imperfect human and child of God I am worthy. And yet, I believe that with leadership it is not nearly so simple -that leaders need to live their worthiness every day.
I believe in these four key indicators that they are doing so…
- They have a deep understanding of their responsibility to treat others with great respect regardless of title or rank in the organization, age, gender, race, ethnicity, or any other factor. If respect is not part of who you are then I don’t think you’re worthy to lead. It’s not to say you won’t be successful driving financial results, it simply means you’ve done so out of force or sheer will and not leadership.
- They understand their responsibility to have a vision for the organization that they are leading and to clearly communicate this vision to their employees so that every member of the organization understands what they’re working towards creating.
- There is a set of strong, core values that the organization commits to and lives by, with the leader being held most accountable.
- They show they value their employees – the people they’ve been entrusted with the opportunity to lead. They actively seek out and engage insight and ideas from all levels of their organization and not just the C-Suite or senior management.
I believe the gift of leadership is one that is meant to be honored and respected; meant to be unwrapped purposefully, with a clear understanding of the degree of responsibility that it comes with. It’s the ones who are truly grateful for the gift and treat it with sincere respect that I believe are worthy of their roles and who ultimately make the most successful leaders.
What do you think…?
Photo is Gift by MarcinMoga.