I am finishing up 10 years of service in the position I presently hold.  It’s an “elected” position.  Every 5 years the organization I work with gets to decide who it will be its national leader.  After two five year terms I have decided not to stand again when re-election would ordinarily occur at the end of this year.

My mentor phoned me today.  He asked me how I was doing.  He asked me if I was “counting the days”.  I laughed and said “no” but I was conscious of counting the months.  I do have a few assignments that require my attention and a few things to put into place so that I can finish well and leave the organization in good shape.

He then hit me with the zinger question, “if you had to do it over again, would you?”   “Absolutely”, I replied.  He followed up with “if you had to do it over again would you change anything?”  And the answer again was “absolutely”.  I would change a lot.   A man’s a fool if he gets a chance to correct his mistakes and doesn’t do it.

I’ve learned a ton.  Some of the things I’ve learned through my successes. But I’ve learned a ton more through my “failures”.  I’ve learned what doesn’t work.  I’ve learned what I can/can’t do.  I’ve learned that I have abilities and limitations.  I’ve learned about myself.  I am so thankful to God for all the things I’ve learned in the last decade.   It’s almost disappointing that I have learned so much and it’s time to let it go to the next leader.  I am just getting the knack of things. I’ve learned things like,

1.  people want to be loved.  If a significant leader can communicate his love for the people he works with, it goes a long way.  And conversely, if people think you don`t love them…well you know what happens.

2.  a simple, clear vision works better than an intense ,complicated vision.   If you can speak of the future as something simple, attractive and doable, you know there is a chance people with move toward it.  Keep it simple, and keep it simply on the simple. I am not saying I did that, but I learned what is best.

3.  not everybody gets it, and not everybody gets it at the same time.  I feel sorry for Moses who tried to move everybody across the desert.  It never happened for him.  Leadership requires courage to not only step up, but to keep stepping up even when the group around you is only slowly responding.

4.  Leaders need supporters who tell them the truth, but support them in the truth.  By that I mean, it`s not enough to have people who agree with you, you need people around you who support you and disagree with you as you seek to lead.

5.  leading an organization is wearying.  I didn’t realize how wearying it could be.  After 10 years people ask “are you mad?”  thinking I was upset or disappointed.  The answer is “no”, but I am tired.

6.   you have a limited window of influence in an organization especially an organization that functions on “good will”.   If you wait too long before inviting redirection then the system will actually stall around you and not let you move it.  I wonder if that is what Jesus meant when he alerted us “beware when all men speak well of  you”?

7.  though we are invited to be “at peace with all men” we do have to face the reality that conflicts will occur.  In order to lead an organization that values peace and harmony, you’ll need good conflict resolution skills and good skills to resolve irresolvable conflicts.  (can you say heart of a lamb, hide of a rhino?)

8.  I was going to talk about “patience” here but I think the biblical word “perseverance” is the better word.   Water dropping on a rock goes on and on, and eventually grinds a path through the rock.  That’s perseverance.  Continuing to do the right thing til eventually it happens.

9.  I’ve got a few more but I’ll save them.  I think there is a book in there to be written.

Anyway, if you had a chance to do it all over again… would you?  And if you would, what would you do differently?