Leadership is an interesting thing. I’ve heard John Maxwell boil it down into one simple word – influence. I would agree with the fact that leadership is influence. I also prefer to say that leadership is stewardship. Some of what we know about leadership is innate, but a lot is taught and more is caught. The taught and caught part come from either intentional training times by others or by watching others do what they do either well or not so well. Either way, much of what we learn about leadership is because of someone else. Someone else has been a good steward of their influence and we glean from them.
I’ve blogged about different individuals in my life who have both intentionally and unintentionally taught me significant leadership lessons. I’ve caught just as much as from them as they’ve taught me. Another very valuable leadership steward in my life is my friend Myron.
Myron was the first and maybe the only professor I had in Bible College who assigned reading from secular books. One of such books that I learned a TON from which still influences is Covey’s, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” It’s a brilliant book and Myron taught me a lot about applying these habits. Myron was a unique professor. When he handed out the syllabus at the beginning of the semester, for every class he taught, he’d give us as students the opportunity to “choose our own grades.” I got to choose what grade I wanted in the class. Each grade would have a certain amount of work next to it and if I simply did the work, I got that grade. He never made you choose or made you feel guilty for what you chose. BUT, because he was such an amazing teacher who was gifted at being able to engage you in the subject matter, you always wanted to choose the A and do the most amount of work. He had an ability to get you excited about learning.
He had a way of teaching his class using questions and discussion which made the class feel like they were teaching themselves. As a student, we always seemed to discover the answers to our own questions using his help as a guide. His classes were always my favorite.
I connected with Myron right away in college. I really was drawn to his ability to engage and I loved his preferred style of leadership and management. In a time when everyone seemed to be downing management and raising up leadership, Myron had a philosophy that wove the two together. He just thought and interacted differently than anyone I’d ever been around. And I loved to be around him.
After college, I would drive up to Cincinnati once a month to have breakfast with Myron. I had asked if he would mentor me and he graciously agreed. I was so young and green in ministry and leadership, Myron was an excellent guide for me. Much like his classes, he would never give me an answer to my questions or struggles. Like an artist, he would skillfully ask me questions to guide me to my own answers. As I processed, he’d sit quietly and just smile. Occasionally he’d blink. Occasionally. He’d ask a question and then just sit quietly. If I was quiet because I didn’t know the answer, he’d just continue to sit quietly. He wasn’t about to answer or talk. He, like no one I’ve ever known, has never been intimidated by silence. He will always win a contest to see who could last the longest in the midst of awkward silence!!
Those breakfasts were gold. I’d drive back to Lexington with a ton of stuff to process, all because he asked me a few questions. The value he gave me of being able to process my own answers is priceless. It’s an excellent leaderships skill – the art of asking questions. No one in my life asks questions the way Myron does. His brain just works differently! It really is an art.
It’s interesting that one of Covey’s habits, “seek first to understand and then to be understood”, I learned thanks to Myron the question asker. It’s a habit that has influenced my leadership as much as any other principle. Myron knows how to seek understanding before being understood because he understands the art of asking questions. He taught me this habit and principle. I caught it from him.
Over the years, I tried to hire Myron on our teams at Southland. His value to any organization and team is priceless. Finally, several years ago, he succumbed to my badgering and he joined us. His office has always been a revolving door because people love to seek his advice and get his guidance. No surprise there. To this day, when I am meeting with a younger leader who has a struggle – no matter how minor – I will give them an assignment to go meet with Myron. He’s like Yoda with young Jedis! He is still a question artist who pours value into his pupil as he helps them solve their own problem.
This is one of many lessons I have learned from Myron’s leadership stewardship in my life. He’s been a very good friend and influencer. He has taught me the value of asking questions to understand, but also to help others solve their own problems. Honestly, it’s tough for me and it doesn’t come naturally. I’m a problem solver. I can easily jump into someone’s issue and help resolve it. My problem is, I can’t do it with a simple question and my mouth closed!! I have to be intentional about asking the question and then letting them wrestle. That’s what good leaders who want to steward their leadership and influence others in their leadership do.
Seek first to understand. Be a question asker. Be a question artist. This is an obscure and very valuable leadership lesson for any leader.
I am thankful that I get to work alongside of Myron still to this day. Myron will retire in the next chapter of his journey. But he will never retire from his ability to lead and influence, especially through question asking. He’ll go to work for Disney at one of their parks in the next chapter and he’ll pour value into complete strangers everyday by his art and they’ll never know what hit them. But, until that chapter begins, I’m going to continue to send as many of our young team members to him as I can so that one day they’ll be able to look back and identify this incredible lesson they’ve learned from this incredible man.5 Comments »