I’ve had the privilege of holding many titles over a lifetime, and each title has brought me insights, opportunities, and, as is true about everything in life, challenges.
I was, first of all, “son,” and then became “student” and in my early teens, “believer.” Soon enough I added “graduate,” and in due course, “employee.” At 22 years of age, I added “husband” to the list of titles, this one being of an entirely different magnitude than most. I could fill a library on the learning that has accompanied being “husband” over the past 35 years.
Soon after becoming “husband,” I added “pastor,” and then “founder,” “entrepreneur,” “author,” and then – oh my – “daddy.” With “daddy” would come a second library of discovery, learning, and growth.
For quite a while, the titles that have tacked themselves on have been of relative unimportance when compared to “son” and “believer” and “husband” and “daddy.” I did add “president,” “doctor,” “CEO,” and “chairman” to the list in due course, and probably a few more, if I really scratched my head.
But this week, my “title” took a very decisive turn; this week, I became “grandpa.” This week, I stood by, doing very little of actual use in the process, as my daughter promoted me to one of the most apt titles ever named. “Grand” it is, for sure, to be “grandpa.”
And I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. The work I do with leaders to help them understand their obligations to the people they serve, is work I pray will be done in the life of my 3-day-old grandson. He needs what every person who works for one of the leaders that I serve, needs.
My grandson needs to discover his purpose. He needs to be told that his life has purpose, first of all, and then helped to see the connection points between his ordinary day-to-day activities and the “great purposes” for which he lives.
My grandson needs to be shown that he is of value, that he is beloved and worthwhile and a treasure. Beyond what he does, accomplishes, and creates, or how well he performs, he will need people who value him simply because of the being that he is.
My grandson needs to learn that there are trustworthy people in the world, that there are men and women who are as good as their word, who keep promises, and who are faithful. He will need to learn about integrity and character from others so that he can become a boy and a man of virtue.
And, my grandson needs to discover his mission and passion and gifting. He will need guides that don’t merely observe what tasks he can perform well, but who have the insight and sensitivity to encourage him in areas of great excitement and motivation. What he’s good at is one thing; what makes his heart sing is another.
What I’ve been thinking, as these observations wash over me, is that we get the chance in this life – by “we,” I mean all of us – to serve in some manner the growing-up process of the human beings we encounter. Every man or woman you meet is somewhere down the path from that moment when, like my grandson, they were ushered into the world. Can we look at them as I look upon my grandson, devoted to do our part in nurturing them along in their journey? Can we invest in those around us, even if our part may seem small, with the knowledge that they are precious and deserving of our very best?
“Leader” is one more title I’ve held in my life. And you hold this title, “leader,” too. Becoming a “grandpa” has added a dimension of urgency to this title “leader.” My grandson will need countless men and women in his life who help bring him along. He’ll need good leaders. And there are thousands of other “grandpas” and “grandmas,” “dads” and “moms,” who we can serve, whose prayers we can help answer, as we bring guidance and encouragement and growth to the people around us.
As you walk around this week inside your “leadership” title, look at the people you serve through the lens of “grandpa” or “grandma.” The people you lead are precious. They need tremendous input in their lives. And you have the opportunity to play a role, however small.
This reminds me of the great line by Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, paraphrased as follows: “I have an imagination that every encounter I have with another human being, however brief, holds within it the potentiality of changing the trajectory of that person’s life forever.” Cathy is right to imagine our human encounters in this way. We have an impact on those around us, and it matters. It is good for us to contemplate this, and to bring ourselves to bear upon those around us as positively as we can.
As a brand new “grandpa,” I’m counting on you to do just that!
Photo by Melissa Harman / Newton Consulting