The morning newspaper used to be a ritual for many/most people (especially leaders): spend a few minutes getting up-to-speed about what happened in the prior 24 hours – while they were focused on their own domain of engagement – and, then, get back in the game. News, weather and sports…
The paper-at-the-door is so old school. Today, headlines hit mobile devices with no concern for interruption. And, unless it’s an Amber Alert or a robo-call announcing impending disaster, the teaser looks more like yesterday’s tabloids than today’s thoughtful update.
What are the filters that determine what’s newsworthy today? First, the subject must be famous: average people don’t get the coverage, unless they’ve decided to incite indiscriminate death. Then, the priority points toward trouble. “Difficulty or problems” is Webster’s brief on trouble. The last sort on trouble: was it a virtual ambush, or self-inflicted?
Trouble that results from bad acts – whether intentional or accidental – stirs no sympathy. Moguls who use privilege as a license to be abusive have always been problematic: everyone knows a villain or two, and their demise draws applause. Criminal behavior has statutes of limitation and rules of evidence… but when public acceptance or reputation are the issue, those conditions don’t apply: sins of the past live in the shadows, ready for the revelation that often carry a virtual death penalty. No one mourns when someone has a head-on collision with the consequences for their own misbehavior…
The trouble that comes looking for you is entirely different. Often, it rises to the level of tribulation: the distress or suffering that comes from oppression or persecution. Whether claimed or not, the status of victim is granted by the onlookers; they know it’s “not fair.”
From our earliest days, most sane people plot a course that seeks to avoid trouble. Life is tough enough without making it worse by setting cause-effect calamity in motion. The Dumb Tax is collected daily; living in a way that mitigates that fee is the path called “wisdom.”
It’s those dreaded tribulations that keep you on your toes. When word comes that a friend has encountered hardship that was not the result of their own bad acts, it stimulates a compassion that picks up the phone rather than setting up an auto-block for their private line. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity” (Solomon; Proverbs 17:17).
Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas both died in 2014, but their co-authored book, Geeks & Geezers: How Era, Values, and Defining Moments Shape Leaders lives on at Amazon. Published in 2002, their observations are timeless. One finding at the core of their treatise: every leader, regardless of age, has undergone at least one intense, transformational experience – what they call a crucible. “These events can either make you or break you. For emerging leaders, they do more making than breaking, providing key lessons to help a person move ahead confidently.”
When God walks us through His Leadership Hall of Fame – in Hebrews 11 – He points out the sign in the exhibit that explains the tribulation/trouble in each display: “… others were tortured and refused to be released … some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about … destitute, persecuted and mistreated – the world was not worthy of them.” (vs 35-38). Leadership disallows the “opt-out” feature for tribulation…
I want to avoid dumb-trouble; no sense bringing it on myself. I’ve learned, however, that there is a brand of tribulation and trouble that can’t be avoided… if you expect to lead.
You’ve learned that, too, haven’t you? Hang in there, friend. Just the other side of that kind of trouble comes credibility; you cannot achieve that distinction without it.