Wednesday, March 09, 2011

To Partner or to Pioneer?

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm in the middle of a teaching-tour focused on telling the stories of people who have been among the first to cross significant frontiers in the kind of work I'm part of. We're talking about men and women who blazed the trails that others have followed. Pioneers.

Since I really value partnering over pioneering, I confessed this to the students. Told them I don't think I have it in me to work toward something that doesn't even exist yet. That I lack the entrepreneurial spirit/gift. And that I nevertheless struggle with feelings of both jealousy and judgmentalism toward those who strike out on their own, who have less experience and insight than I do and yet dub themselves founder, president, or director - titles that bring them prestige and platforms. "Glory seekers," I sometimes think, "can't work with others," or "don't realize how many people are already doing this thing. Bet they didn't even think to ask or look."

While sometimes such accusations are well founded, often they are not. And I'm pretty sure my motivation to pull down others from what seem to be self-built pedestals has its roots in something rather twisted in myself.

So, let's try not squelch the people who have what it takes to blaze new trails. Try to redirect them, possibly. Temper them, sometimes. Equip them, certainly. And, I hope, come alongside them and help them to succeed, introduce them to others (one of my favorite things to do), and encourage them when they hit obstacles and snags.

Most of the pioneers I talk about in my teaching session were reluctant leaders: they had tried to join something that already existed and all the doors closed. As their vision and values crystallized they realized a new entity would be required in order to go forward. Sometimes, what they accomplished was so impressive that the early failure or rejection just seems inescapably providential; it freed and/or forced them to step out and lead the way into something new and wonderful.

Do you aspire to lead a team or organization? Say you have a compelling vision. What filters do you use in making the decision to strike out "on your own" to pursue it? I asked my Perspectives audiences for their input. Here's some of what they said.
  1. The thing I have a passion for, is it something that's really needed?
  2. Is anybody else doing something like this already?
  3. Have they seen this opportunity?
  4. Have we tried to work together?
  5. Have I tried to join an existing organization and not found a fit?
  6. Does it seem as if this vision is from God?
  7. Do others encourage me to follow this vision?
  8. Is it worth a long-term investment?
  9. Can I make a long-term investment?
  10. Am I willing and able to take risks, blaze trails, and go in the dark?
  11. Will others work with me, even follow me?
>> What do you think? What would you add?


Shane said...

Hey Marti,

Brilliant question for this lesson. I wish I'd read your post before I taught this one recently!

I might add to the list: Who discourages this vision? Sometimes that can tell you something about its validity.

Keep up the good work.


Marti said...

It seemed a good integrating question for the lesson as a whole. I significantly reworked my "expansion" and "pioneers" lesson materials and am pleased with the results. The one I'm teaching in Anchorage is combined lesson 7 & 8. And could use more "7" in it, so I may do some more tweaking this week before heading there, next week.

That question is a good addition. What are the arguments against the vision? Who opposes it?

Marti said...

Oh, and of course the whole time I was thinking about what Carol Davis would say. Carol's ideas - mostly filtered through Shane Bennett - are a bit help in understanding what it takes and what it means to pioneer new work.