Know the Story Others Tell About you

One leadership principle taught by Kansas Leadership Center is “Leadership starts with you and must engage others.” It is natural, when engaging others, that opinions and beliefs will be formed about all who are involved by all who are involved in the challenge at hand. These opinions and beliefs won’t always be made known directly; they are often held quietly. Sometimes I think that what others think about me doesn’t matter as long as I keep calm, cool, and non-anxious. KLC suggests otherwise.

This competency – Know the story others tell about you – suggests I (or you) should not ignore what beliefs and opinions others have about me. In fact, the stories others tell about me may offer valuable insight as to why I run up against what feels like a brick wall or why it seems like no matter what I try I can’t get us to move or make progress. If perception is reality, as is sometimes stated, it makes a lot of sense to pay attention to the stories others tell about me. Jesus offers a compelling example of enacting this principle.

As Jesus wrestled with his earthly adaptive challenge, he modeled this competency. Matthew 16 and Luke 9 both record that conversation. Jesus asked his disciples directly ‘Who do people say I am?’ (In other words, what is the story others are believing/telling about me?) What was the motivation for Jesus to ask that? Was there any useful information he could take from their responses? Why did he even need to ask, couldn’t he just know what people were saying? It didn’t really matter what people thought, did it?

Through the lens of adaptive leadership competencies, Jesus may have been doing some really important work in this exchange. He was able to get a pulse of how well (or not) his intended message was being received. He could find out if his leadership interventions (methodology) were hitting the mark. He could also gauge how in touch the team around him was with the larger community he was trying to impact. When they responded to his question, he was able to go even a step further (closer?) to ask those nearest to him what story they were telling about him – ‘what about you, who do you say I am?’

In this case, Jesus was able to confirm that his intended message was getting through, at least to the disciples. There must have been some peace of mind knowing that as the time got closer to give the work he started completely over to them, they at least could carry it forward faithfully.

As we face our own adaptive challenges – both internal and external – do you know what story others tell about you? Do we know what story others tell about us as a congregation? Who could you ask to learn what story others are telling about you? Are perceptions blocking our progress or do they encourage us to keep on with the work?

--Todd Lehman