First Third Conversations

Play Chess!

ChessA blog post by Nancy Lee Gauche

There are so many fascinating people who have lived and contributed to our lives. Peter Drucker is one of those people in my estimation. Drucker was born in a suburb of Vienna, Austria on November 19, 1909 and died in November of 2005, just shy of his 96th birthday.  His kindergarten teacher taught “the concept of management,” and his 4th grade religious instructor asked, “What do you want to be remembered for?” His father held gatherings in the Drucker home where intellectuals, high government officials, and scientists would discuss ideas and events

Among those who attended were Sigmund Freud and Joseph Schumpeter, who later impressed upon Drucker the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship. Drucker explored the way human beings organize themselves and interact much the way an ecologist would observe and analyze the biological world. Drucker coined the term “knowledge worker,” and he spent the rest of his life examining an age in which an unprecedented number of people use their brains more than their backs.

Peter Drucker, who many name the guru of “leadership/management,” said in one interview:  “I was the first one to talk about leadership fifty years ago, but there is too much talk, too much emphasis on it today and not enough on effectiveness.”

Too much talk and not enough action or execution of principles, beliefs, and ideas around leadership. This message haunts me as we write yet another blog about leadership!

I have found myself thinking deeply about leadership most of my life. I’ve had the same curiosity about how human beings organize themselves for outcomes and effectiveness. I gravitate towards healthy, effective leaders, but find myself learning more from failed leadership. My leadership mantra has become this: Leadership development is about personal development. Personal development is growing in your own self-awareness and in your awareness of the “other.”

Marcus Buckingham used an analogy for spiritual directors that I want to use for leader. “A good leader plays checkers; a great leader plays chess!” The complexity of leadership is the complexity of human beings. We come with very different sets of wiring, different interests, different temperaments, different learning styles, different blind spots, and different fears.

Wise leaders acknowledge these differences and learn from them. Back to the checker/chess game analogy. One checker is pretty much interchangeable with any other checker. But in chess, the possibilities vary according to the chess piece. Skill for leading people, like skill at playing chess, depends on understanding and valuing differences. Viva La Difference! Each of the six different kinds of pieces move differently. And sometimes the game ends in a draw!

We so easily get into a default mode of leading. How we have been led becomes the norm along with our individual leadership experiences. We take one experience and repeat it in another setting. Leadership is about observation, observation, listening, and more observation. There are core principles to leadership, but how we execute or carry leadership moves out depends on the setting, culture, client, student, parishioner, and situation that we lead within.

Every leadership opportunity carries its own challenges and its own possibilities. One key leadership move is to observe, then diagnose, and then prescribe what could be most helpful for going forward toward the intended goal.

Grow in your leadership capacity beyond a checker game…play chess! 

Nancy Lee GaucheAuthor Bio:
Hey Friends! Glad to meet you. I am a pastor, leader, and teacher/learner who gets a kick out of developing leaders and equipping people for public Christian ministry.  I am energized by all things faith-driven.  My strengths drive me to be energized by the process of learning and I thrive in dynamic work environments. Right now I find myself working in the field of Children, Youth & Family Master’s & MDIV Concentration at Luther Seminary in St Paul MN!

I am married to an amazing human being, Pastor Paul Gauche, and together we are the parents of two young adult children: Sarah, who is married to Travis with little Ruby Grace our grand-baby! They make their home together in Charlottesville, Va.; and Soren, who resides in downtown Minneapolis. Right now, Shelbui the dog keeps the Gauches’ good company.

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