Picture this. You’re on the bridge of the Titanic. You’re a junior officer on this “unsinkable” ship. Up ahead you see an iceberg. But a very experienced senior officer is in control of the bridge. What do you do? Well since we’ve all seen the movie, you’d tell the senior officer, wouldn’t you. In the loudest voice possible. Magna voce. “ICEBERG!!!!!!”
Fast forward to the next century. You’re involved in a significant organization. Up ahead you see a huge problem – one that could derail the organization. But you’re not the senior leader. And that leader does not like to be questioned. Now what do you do? Remember, you’ve seen the movie. The Titanic sinks.
Sadly, most of us would do nothing. We’d rather take a chance that hitting the iceberg will only be a glancing blow, (like the Monty Python character who insists, “I’m not dead yet!”), than confront the leader with the truth. After all, you might get yelled at, passed over for a promotion – or even lose your job. (Look at the impact on far too many lives because most employees refused to confront the leadership issues of Enron, MCI, Tyco et al.)
This becomes particularly interesting in the church. How do we confront the one leading? How do we quietly say, “Umm, excuse me, ICEBERG!”
“Shouldn’t we just let God deal with it?”
“How? Like He did with Ananias and Sapphira? A little direct intervention.”
We are the Body of Christ – His hands, feet, eyes, ears and yes, even mouth. Our role is to speak the truth in love – to speak the truth!
I quoted from Tom Lutz’s post on Servant Leadership yesterday. Tom recommends an exit strategy if the “gentle” confrontation doesn’t work. That would be prudent.
It sounds like a copout, but sometimes you will be better served by contributing your talents to another organization that builds people up rather than uses them up. It is the bottom line in any negotiation…the BATNA or the Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. This strategy is used all the time when we buy a car in the traditional adversarial bargaining style. You have to be ready to walk.
Most leaders respect candor and criticism…if it is given appropriately and in a spirit of cooperation. Good leaders know that the single most frequent reason for employees leaving organizations is unresolved conflict. To willfully foster turnover of a productive employee adds to the cost structure of their organization and is not good business. Good leaders will listen and try to change. But just in case you have a boss that doesn’t see work life in such an informed manner, be ready to leave.
The question you need to ask yourself is, “Do you really want to go down with the ship – or do you want to make an effort to save it and the people on it ?” Even if you are not successful, you will at least have made the attempt. And how do you know that your effort may not be the second to last straw – you prepare the way for someone else’s success at averting disaster.
The responsibilities of the led are significant. We choose to accept or reject those responsibilities to the benefit or peril of the organization. Choose wisely.