Have you ever felt really isolated?
I think isolation can be paralyzing. It can cause us to make unwise decisions. It can make us believe things about other people that aren't true. It can make us believe things about ourselves that aren't true.
I just spent four days in one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.
It was also the most isolating place I've ever been. Let me show you on a Google Map where I was:
Far north of Vancouver, Canada is the Princess Louisa inlet, rated one of the top yachting destinations in the WORLD! We stayed at a Young Life Camp called Malibu. Notice there isn't a road anywhere! To get to this place from Kansas City it took a two days of travel! One day we spent flying to Seattle and the next day it took a bus, a ferry, more time on a bus, and then a water taxi to even get there.
Although Malibu is one of the oldest Properties Young Life owns it's staff has never lived there year round...until recently. On the side of a few homes I saw satellite dishes picking up cable as well as 4G internet.
This place used to be impossible to live at year round, not simply because of its location but because of the isolation for it's staff. And although it might not be hugs and handshakes, being connected to other people is the key to survival in this remote place. Even now, as I write this, I'm 38,000 feet in the air somewhere over Iowa.
What used to be one of the most disconnecting experiences, flying in a plane, has now become far less isolating. I can watch live shows, use iMessage to text with friends, and I can write this through a website! I can do all this because planes are now connected to the internet at 38K feet!
These miraculous experiences through human innovation bring me to this leadership question:
How are you isolating people?
Connection is becoming the best leadership tool in both business and non-profit leadership. I watch a lot of PBS and they have a commercial about leaving money to PBS in your will. They showcase a gentleman who resembles Santa and he says, "I'm not expecting a pat on the back," but he is expecting to be connected to something he cares about even after his death!
In regards to your leadership ask:
1. Have I created distance? - Sometimes we can create the distance that makes others feel isolated. And it can be something as simple as being more busy, which can cause us to communicate less and make others feel isolated.
2. Where am I being absent? - Do you have to apologize often for making plans with people and then canceling those plans. If you do, you're isolating a lot of people. I believe in healthy balances as people and making sure we have the time to take care of ourselves is good. But I've also seen too many people turn all their energy to their own address - meaning they don't serve anyone or anything unless it lives at their address. We're not called to this, God's command is to love the Lord and love your neighbor. If you can't find in your life where you're serving someone else outside your address, you should ask yourself some hard questions about why you're not. And believe it or not, some leaders use leadership as an opportunity to be served by everyone else. You can identify this in your leadership if you have to lead for short seasons in different places for things to work.
3. Am I connecting people? - A leadership mistake is to have this view:
Mission goal = people + work
Deceiving isn't it? We just need people to do the work, right? Wrong. The leadership equation that works looks like:
Mission goal = people + connection + work
I've worked with over 100 volunteers and I can see the signs when someone is going to step away. Something has occurred where they feel disconnected or isolated somewhere in their life or with the mission. Sometimes I've been the cause, sometimes a change in routine is the cause, and sometimes a life event is the cause but isolation or disconnection is always the tipping point for someone stepping away. But I can tell you this, it doesn't get more fun than when a group of people are all in: Both in each others lives as well as in the mission. A culture of connected people will accomplish far more than a culture of disconnected people. Part of your leadership routine should be figuring out how to connect your people to one another as much as connecting them to the work.
Now, what about you? Where do you feel isolation in your life? If you took inventory in your life where do you feel disconnected? We will not lead others to great goals if we ourselves are isolated in our life as a leader. But, if you consider yourself a leader your response to your isolation is different than how others respond, you're going to take action and do something about it. However, the person posing as a leader will take drastic measures: Move to a new city. Quite a job. Leave a church. Leave a marriage. Have another kid. Stop volunteering. But a leader will make a small change today...and the next day...and the next day...and the next. Leaders know that change isn't an instant fix, change is a result of a lot of small steps that lead to big results. The same is true in our life because if we try to fix something over night than we repeatedly find ourselves in the same situation in a new location.
What small changes do you need to help yourself or help others be less isolated tomorrow?