What I learned about leadership from a ponderosa …
One of my favorite places in North America is in the mountains of New Mexico, specifically Hermit Peak.
I just love that place.
Hermit Peak is a mountain that stretches over 10,000 feet high and has a breath taking view from the top.
Why is it called Hermit Peak? Well, supposedly, an Italian missionary named Juan de Agostini lived in a cave on the summit in the mid 1860s. He established himself as a kind of holy man, trading carvings and trinkets for food. Over the years people would hike to the top to receive blessings and healings from him. Agostini eventually left the mountain but remnants of his time still remain to this day.
Now, Agostini’s story is interesting, but that’s not what I love most about that place. What I love and miss most about the mountains in New Mexico are the trees. The trees appear at first to be a standard variety pine that easily tower over 100 feet in the air. (Ponderosa Pine for all you arborists.) You see, there is a mystery about these pines that still seems to puzzle scientists to this day. The Ponderosa, when young, will have a black bark that people refer to as black jack pines, when the tree gets older (around 110-120 years old) the bark changes to have a yellow appearance and is referred to as a yellow pine. They are the same tree, just the yellow pine is older.
Here is where the mystery comes in.
The yellow pine has a unique smell that’s intoxicating for those who smell it and yet fascinatingly, most can’t agree on the smell. Some will say it smells like snickerdoodles, others will say cinnamon, vanilla and even coconut. For me, I smelled butterscotch.
I loved that smell so much that I actually grabbed a branch the last time I was there hoping to take a little piece home with me. It didn’t work. The smell was gone shortly after I removed the branch.
I miss that smell.
Here is what I learned about leadership when I tried to take the smell with me. Often times we get busy doing and forget that the most important part of what we do is rooted on the people that we lead with. Our relationships with our leaders and their relationships with each other are what make us the church. We need to stay connected to each other and no go off and lead on our own. When we lead without that connection like the bark separate from the yellow ponderosa we lose something.
So ask yourself these questions.
How do your leaders connect with each other? How do you connect with them? Do you have a regular gathering with your leaders?
As you consider the questions you may begin to realize that your leaders aren’t well connected and you aren’t sure what you can do about it. Here are a five ideas that are working for others.
1. Have regularly scheduled one-on-ones with leaders.
2. Have a weekly time for leaders to connect before or after they lead.
3. Have a regular (every month or every few months) gathering of all leaders from all areas of your church. We like to call this leadership community.
4. Have a social time when leaders gather to get updates about the area in which they lead.
5. Do something together that can build relationships through shared experiences with each other: service projects, competitive outings or learning experiences (classes, certifications, etc…).
When your leaders are connected, they will be happier and more motivated. You will even begin to notice a shift in your culture and how the leadership role is enjoyable and one that people desire instead of dread. Lastly, you will help them to avoid burnout by keeping them well connected.
So, are your leaders like the hermit Juan de Agostini or are they like the yellow ponderosa who, when connected, have that mysterious, sweet smell?