LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM A SINKING TITANTIC
The recent cruise ship that overturned and sank in Italy was a startling reminder of the Titantic and just how critical the role and responsibility of the leader/captain is.
It was a cold and chilly evening in the year of 1912 when the message rang out over the airwaves, “We have struck iceberg … sinking fast … come to our assistance.” Before the last Morse Code letters were tapped, those words became the epitaph for over 1,200 lives that were lost on the Titanic. The ship was doomed as it slowly sank and submerged into its frigid and watery grave. The question is why did the largest, most advanced ship of its caliber at the time sink?
Those of us who know the story and are students of history or have seen the modern day movie may already know why the ship sank. It was not the iceberg that caused the ship's disaster and doom. The real reality is, It was the lack of leadership.
According to the historical records, Captain E. J. Smith was commanding his final voyage on the Titantic. All he had to do was get the Titantic to New York and he could retire and settled down for the easy life. Only God knows why Captain Smith ignored the facts and disregarded seven iceberg warnings from his crew.
To those who are serving and pastoring congregations, whether your congregation is the size of a row boat or the size of a cruise ship, here are some noted leadership lessons that can be learned from a sinking ship.
1. Leadership is Responsible -- As a pastoral leader, you are responsible for everything the church does or does not do. Please take note, leadership is more than being a figurehead. Leadershp is more than a position, an ecclesiastical title, or the captain of the ship. Leadership is NOT about power, ego or pride. Leadership is the ever-present, touching, motivating, cultivating, stimulating, coaching, preparing and transforming those you have influence over as the spiritual captain of your congregation.
2. The Biggest Is Not always the Best -- A lot of our churches must learn how to change course instantly and quickly. It took over 30 seconds before the Titanic turned away from the iceberg, by then it was too late. The larger a church becomes the more inflexible it becomes. The more difficult and cumbersome it is to steer, to control, to manage and to change course. Large ministries have the propensity to grow into huge bureaucracies where rules, regulations, policies, procedures can hijack the spiritual momentum of the church and stagnation becomes the norm.
3. Rank Has Its Privileges? - Yes, rank may be good for command and control but it can be a hinderance to change and innovation. Ranking people can limit one's potential. A lot of our churches place and esteem committe leaders and ministries over and above others in the church. Whether it is reserved parking spaces, reserved pews or classifying ministries for the privileged or big tithers the results are the same. Lets erased the lines of privilege and honor make everyone feel they are rowing in the same direction, for the same Kingodm purpose. Remember this, in a disaster, everyone is equal.
4. The Truth Changes - Everybody thought the Titanic was unsinkable. Those that designed the Titantic were so confident that they only provided enough lifeboats for half the passengers. As Pastoral Leaders, please be advised that the thinking that made us successful yesterday will cause us to fail tomorrow. Our unlearning curve must be greater than our learning curve if we are going to succeed in ministry.
5. Technology Makes a Poor Substitute for Authentic Leadership -- When technology fails, leadership must prevail. Years before the Titanic’s final voyage, it was noted that Captain Smith commented, “I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to falter. Modern day ship building and advancement have gone beyond that.” Many of our churches today have placed the wrong people in leadership positions. These persons are not leaders, they are managers. So when your ministry starts to experience turbulance or when disaster strikes, who is going to step up and be the leader? Or are you depending on your technology which can cause your ministry to shipwreck and sink?
6. Leadership is About Training and Development -- As the stern of the Titanic was rising up and out of the water, the crew and passengers struggled to secure and mangage the lifeboats. Keep in mind, there had been no drills or rehearsals and therefore, crew was unfamiliar with their responsibilities. The lifeboats were improperly loaded and only one lifeboat went back to try to recover survivors. Make no mistake about it, a transformational leader and pastor trains and develops thier people so they can become more productive and respond appropriately in the time of crisis.
7. What Lies Below Is More Destructive than What Is On Top: The greatest dangers always lie unseen below the surface. During that night in 1912 the water was smooth like glass and deceptively dangerous. The iceberg was lurking below and like like steel claws, it tore at the hull of the Titantic. The crew below was the first ones to see the damage that was caused. Yet, while the steam billowing above, chaos was reigning below. Just like then, so it is today, those who know what’s wrong with your “ministry” are those below decks. Those who are on the frontline usually have the best ideas and solutions to the insuing problems. Pastors, consider asking your people for their ideas and suggestions before catastrophe strikes your ministry.
8. A Good Leader is Always Looking Beyond the Horizon: A good “Pastor” or a "Visionary Pastor" is constantly and consistently on the lookout for opportunities, shifting trends, submerged rocks, storms and icebergs. It was Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton who identified and met a need while other retailers we snoozing. It was the late Steve Jobs of Apple who saw the need for the iPod and the iPad while others were still happy with CD players and laptops. The point is, as pastoral leaders and captains of congregations, you should always be on the lookout, scanning the horizon of your faith community for the next wave of change instead of waiting for it to surprise you and hit you in the face.
The moral of the lesson today is as pastoral leaders, you can abandon your spiritual ship like the captain of the Italian cruise ship; you can remain irresponsible and unresponsive like the captain of the Titantic or you can rise up to your responsibililties as a godly leader and command your congregational ship with confidence and courage. Remember at the end of the day, you will hear one of two statements from our Lord: 1) "Well done thou good and faithful servant/leader"; or 2) "Depart from me you worker of iniquity."