An Open Letter To Mentors, Coaches, Teachers, and More

by PJ McClure on December 13, 2012

Dear Leader,

You may not have realized this letter is for you because you aren’t used to being called “Leader,” but I promise, the name captures your role. There are many of us in a position of leadership that do not realize it. Mentors, coaches, teachers, parents, pastors, administrators, and many more come under the call of a leader so, you qualify.

I’m writing because I realized something that was missing from my own consciousness as a leader and wanted to make sure you knew about it so you could bring this in if it is missing for you too. You see, I spend most of my time in one or more of the titles I mentioned before and they all look very similar. In fact, the differences really have nothing at all to do with me, but with the people I’m engaged with at the time.

With my clients I’m a mentor or coach, not a parent. Parenting is exclusively for my children and even though I do coach and mentor them, that isn’t what they call me. I teach Sunday School, administer on boards of directors, and minister in service organizations, and all of them entail leadership. You can see why I called you “Leader,” because you have many similar roles.

As a leader I have always thought my goal was to bring those following me up to where I am. That’s the essence of leadership after all. People follow because they believe the leader has a better view of what’s up ahead. It seems rather noble to bring them to the same level.

Sitting here now, as I write this to you, the goal of helping others achieve the same level as me seems less noble and shiny than before because I have seen something much greater.

To understand where I’m headed, let me ask you a couple of questions that I asked myself. For who’s benefit are you leading? What happens when they reach your level?

If my goal is to get others to the place I am, there is definite value for them. In the area of which I’m leading, they make progress and become more than they were… but then what? If I am established as the leader and bring them to my level, all I’ve done is create a crowd. I do not have any place left for them to go (we’ve reached the goal) and haven’t prepared them to continue on.

To know how to prevent such a situation I have to answer the first question. For who’s benefit am I leading? In total transparency, I believe my own subconscious motivation many times was for my benefit. Yes, my conscious purpose was to help others grow, but I never thought past myself.

Leading is about the welfare of the people following, therefore, the motivation to lead has to center on what is best for them. You have to make up your own mind about how this looks for you, but as for me, I have a new goal as a leader: To see the people I lead exceed me. So how does that look?

First, it changes the way I lead and the culture I create. When I concentrate on leading in a way that people walk in the full expression of who they are, not just how much like me they can be, they have full permission to chase greatness! If I am trying to bring them to my level, I become the bottleneck and the lid. My path is the only path and my level is the limit.

There is also the responsibility of the follower/student to, take in the guidance of the leader and bring it out through their own gifts, abilities, and experiences. The goal of learning is not to become the same as the one teaching, but to become more of yourself. In this way, the goal of the student should be to exceed the teacher.

Our society has gotten so fearful of being overtaken that many leaders have a mindset that sees exceptional followers as potential threats. In return, exceptional followers have learned to guard themselves and think of their leaders as a hindrance. No one wins.

I’m convinced, the best leaders want their followers to exceed them, but that idea isn’t mine… I borrowed it. No, not from some contemporary management guru. In John 14:12, Jesus says, “…whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do…”

We aren’t talking about your basic, run-of-the-mill ‘works’ in this passage. He meant things like healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, and raising the dead to mention a few. And He said, “…and GREATER works than these will he do”! In many ways, Jesus is an impossible standard to live up to, but He said we can exceed Him in what we accomplish.

If the very man I place my eternal life on was focused on His followers exceeding Him, shouldn’t my focus be there too?¬†

So in closing, I have two things… never stop growing as a person and pray that we become good enough leaders that the people following us will someday, somehow exceed us. Embrace your greatness and encourage the greatness in others so that we all can experience the life Jesus came to proclaim.

Be your best,

PJ

PS – I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. I always appreciate hearing from you.

sharon lewis December 28, 2012 at 3:05 am

wow! i really needed this message to help me rethink and re-evaluate my role as a leader. thank you again for helping me see things clearly… and to ask myself this very important question

Jagica December 19, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am truly blessed to have Sandi and yourself in my life. Learning self-love, acceptance and trusting my Higher Power (God) and not the mean, judging crucifying God that I was thought through our Catholic Church since I was a little girl…I was condemned to hell since I was 5 years old. I have walked away from all religions and ceremonies as I believe they are all man made. I always thought that God the father is suppose to be ever loving, compassionate, understanding and one that loves his children no matter what they do, like the God that you speak of. You have spoken so wisely and I like to thank you for all that you do and because of amazing people like you and Sandi, the world is a better place with your kind words of encouragement.

Sara December 16, 2012 at 10:37 am

Even as someone who has left the Christian path behind, I still find uber-value in the positive works and words from folks like you and Sandi. I think, by the way, that the Christ of genuine humility is far more loving and powerful than the brittle “control-freak superiority” version of Christ that I ran away from. You provide great words of wisdom and I like that you are encouraging us to always do better, even and especially if it means superseding leadership. Thank you.

PJ McClure December 16, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Hey Sara, thanks so much for open, honest reflection. You’re right that Christ IS genuine humility, power, and love. What you experienced in the control-freak superiority things was not Jesus, but people. I won’t act like I know what happened to push off the path, but in love and compassion, I’d like to invite you back on. Come get to know the real Jesus and see if He isn’t worth following. If you’d like resources I would be thrilled to help.

Diane December 14, 2012 at 6:58 am

Thanks PJ. Excellent, though provoking and inspiring. All a leader should be and what we aspire to make others! Praise God!

Fe December 13, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Thanks for the insight it really reminds us God is so great.

Tara Wilding - Herndon December 13, 2012 at 6:12 pm

AMEN!! I praise God for you! You are SUCH a blessing!!

Marilyn Peabody December 13, 2012 at 2:54 pm

John Maxwell says the same thing in his one minute manager video clips- we should always be aware that you need to set growth goals to help yourself and others. I like the way you have reminded us that Jesus Christ was the first to expect greatness of all of us to the best of our abilities.
God Bless!

Susan Hutchinson December 13, 2012 at 11:42 am

Amen and AMEN is all I have to say! :D

Isabelle December 13, 2012 at 10:26 am

Thank you so much for reminding me and for being so transparent! The goal is to share and help eachother reach our greatness…and from teacher to student we allow ourselves to do this.

Karin Peavy December 13, 2012 at 10:23 am

PJ, you are always so inspirational. Thanks for this message. I especially love the last paragraph which sums up the perfect mentality of a leader. The business I am growing is faith-based so my highest prayer is that those on my email list, Facebook and Twitter pages will become all God wants them to be. I am praying that for myself also.

Andy Wood December 13, 2012 at 9:13 am

PJ, that’s the first time I have ever seen that verse from a leadership context – a profound insight! Thanks for this.

John December 13, 2012 at 8:53 am

That’s an eye-opener. Profound. Thanks for sharing this, PJ. This has me really looking at my “leadership” roles in every area of my life. Helping others explore their gifts, not create a clone of me-that’s a strong message.

Have a very Merry Christmas!

John H.

Richard December 13, 2012 at 4:45 am

Thanks for sharing PJ.

I learned that as a leader my resposnibility is to be a pillar – to hold up the next level of leaders i.e. to provide them the foundation for the next level. As you do martial arts, an example I often use, is that the best leaders, like Jesus, are like sensei who expect their students to surpass them.

My role is to prepare those whom I lead in whatever role so they can progress further than me. Afterall, what we create is a cascade, cumulative and synergistic effect with others when we love them, honour them and serve them.

Merry Christmas and…
Be Awesome!
Richard

Kim December 13, 2012 at 3:27 am

Thank you for your insight. I had never thought of us all as leaders in our own way, but of course it’s true.
It’s a wonderful, fresh way of looking at Jesus’ example and applying it to our lives.

PJ McClure December 13, 2012 at 11:14 am

Scripture is packed with those examples Kim. It’s always a thrill when God unpacks one of them for us to use.

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