When my friend David was first getting involved in this kind of work that we do he spent a month or two in Southern India in a situation where his role or reason for being there was a bit unclear. The research was being conducted by a team of nationals; the training was led by a much more experienced researcher. "Your job, David," a wise man there told him, "is to love and serve the team."
Over the years we took those words as more or less our motto. Whenever we were working with a short-term team, I'd step into that attitude: for this season, my #1 job is to love and serve this particular group of people, "the team." It isn't terribly specific but it tells me everything I need to know about what my priorities need to be. No matter what happens with the project(s) or what the ramifications are for me, personally, I'm their friend, their servant, and I'll do whatever it takes to deal with the problems and obstacles we may face. I'll put them first and give them what they need. Even if I'm scared or insecure or tired, I'll position myself to be the best and most helpful friend that I can be. Whatever they ask for, I'll do my best to provide. In whatever they are struggling with, I'll join them in their struggle. Whatever they are blind to or avoiding, I'll help them recognize and overcome. If my approach does not work, I promptly change course rather than expecting others to go along with what I had planned. That's my idea of what a good leader does - not going around telling everyone how it's supposed to be, but serving everyone.
It has a way of simplifying things. Pride, resentment, worry, or distractions are all promptly dealt with or put aside. I pray more, I let go of things, I trust people and believe in them. And if I fall down in one or more of those things - as I do - I deal with the failure and get right back up. Because that's my job - to love and serve the team.
So, I'm enjoying the way that principle has already shaped my summer somewhat and is about to do so even more. But I was thinking, why don't I live this way all the time? Isn't it the best way to live?
Maybe one reason is that the question of just whom I'm 'teaming' with, whom I'm to love and serve, is not usually that clear in 'normal life.' There are hundreds of relationships to juggle, instead of just a dozen of them, and my responsibilities usually have no beginning nor end.
Still, it's worth reflecting on, in the weeks to come: When the team experience is over and when I'm no longer the teacher and the coach, how can I take this attitude home with me?