All Hat And No Cattle

The question was easier to ask than answer, “What does leadership mean when valued?”

First thought was it’s easier to answer what leadership isn’t. So I will. Not that I am exempt to this claim. Want to use another Texas Twang Phrase to convey what good leadership is not: ALL HAT AND NO CATTLE. Often used to disclaim the viability of a political candidate. But this expands to more than politicians.

My main reference is ministers. One minister was an emulation of the hat and cattle declaration. Told me once, “There are two kinds of ministers. Those who are democratic. And those who are effective.” What he had done…much to the congregation’s chagrin—and yet they were at blame because they allowed it…is ruled and controlled. What was defined once as “the co-dependence model of ministry.”

One other negative toning…happens to many of us…whether retiring from ministry in a particular church…or from business. There’s an ethic to be a good predecessor…not be with former parishioners for a good chunk of time….create some space in time and distance so the new pastor has a chance. You may ask why? Because, not deniable for every church, even those churches who have appointment systems for their clergy, the members tend to be focused and attached to an understandable appreciation on the caring gifts of their “former beloved pastor,” and will call him or her when the next one up fails in ANY aspect. What I’ve done, when those “why aren’t you back with us?” calls come, I tell them, “Your new pastor is your pastor…carry your concerns to him…or her.”

Enough of this two-fold negative. This morning, especially for some clergy friends taking first steps in a new ministry or business or family…the positive is most valued. Hopefully for the good of life and living, no matter our relationships, here goes:

I think of ministers on my staff, ministers when in conference ministry and ministers who are colleagues. Can list when I think of them with appreciation and affirmation they realize:

Passion in their calling to ministry doesn’t fade.

Caring about people is genuine and is never considered self-serving.

They are confident in their gifts, but never arrogant. [On this the line between confidence and arrogance is thinner than thin. Yet, I believe the arrogance is avoided when we, each of us, understands our gifts in ministry are solely gifts of God. What we do well is a blessing from God. So ministry, no matter the time or trial, is the self-understanding we are conduits and not roadblocks.]

They don’t take themselves too seriously and rarely consider their efforts ultimate…actually, never.

They do not consider their tasks as burdens, but gifts…instruments of love and understanding, for sure.

Their need to judge is never greater than their willingness to listen.

They do not tell people “what they should do.”

They do not say when someone shares a deep hurt, “I know how you feel.” Rather they offer, “I care about how you are…how can I help?“

They have a good balance of wisdom and courage.

They know in their ministry, no matter the occasion, they are in sales and not management.

They keep the communication ratio of two ears and one mouth.

So, see? The virtues win! But. Not just in ministry. I experienced the same “manner of leadership” in both my mother and father. My mother worked as a secretary in a life insurance company and my father was a garbage man. EACH reflected leadership. My mother’s boss, who was a teammate on our semi-professional baseball team, told me once, “Your mother? Ah, without her my business would push toward atrophy. She keeps that from happening.” And I would wager, but who goes here? I doubt no garbage man in Portland, Oregon, from 1928 to 1978 received more customer’s Christmas cards than Hank Miller.

They both…and the many, many clergy buddies and other friends I value…had lots of cattle when they wore their hat.

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About Mark H Miller

Diane and I live in Leander, Texas. This past June 17, 2015 I celebrated the 49th anniversary of my ordination. We returned to Texas after three years in Washington, during which I served as interim minister in Bellevue/Eastgate and Mercer Island. Am planning to begin a 5th novel that will have my protagonist, Tricia Gleason, serve a year in licensed ministry in Snoqualmie, Washington. The novel, "The Lemon Drop Didn't Melt," will find Tricia wrestling with ministry challenges. None of which more daunting than someone wanting her breathing to stop. All the published novels are available on Amazon and Amazon Kindle under Mark Henry Miller. A primary goal in our return to Texas is to make sure grandchildren get lots of attention--here and in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Traveling is definitely an activity that will not slow down. With that, of course, fishing will happen. To that the t-shirt is apt, "I fish; therefore I am." In addition to novels, the book of Blogs, "Voice Of My Heart," is also available on Amazon.
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