June 1, 2015
Short night (270 minutes between the sheets; sounds better than 4.5 hours); early morning (4:00a alarm); beat the traffic from home to Los Angeles Int’l; remote garage, check-in, TSA precheck (yes!), then head for the bus to the remote commuter terminal… all before 6:00a. My internal autopilot was locked-and-loaded for the Admiral’s Club by Gate 44D.
In the middle of that marathon course, there’s a narrow escalator that funnels everyone into a single lane shuttle to the tarmac level. The woman with the roll-aboard – at the top of that escalator – hadn’t had her coffee yet (my excuse, for her);as she glanced back-and-forth between her boarding pass, the signage over the top of the escalator, and the general backdrop of the nearly-empty terminal. Her hesitance stalled her at the rolling step that was 12” in front of her, unwilling to commit. I nearly plowed her down as she – apparently – played a spectator role in the directional debate that was going on in her head. She was in front of me – making her, temporarily, the leader in my journey – but her hesitance disqualified her ability to stay at the point. The system – a 36” wide escalator – disallowed me passing; I had no choice but to be subjected to her leadership, despite its inadequacy.
Tentative: Not fully worked out, concluded, or agreed on; provisional. Indicating a lack of confidence or certainty; hesitant.
She was sharply dressed, and carrying a high-dollar leather case that shouted “take-no-prisoners” to the conference room crowd. I’m sure that her business card and security pass places her in a high-up status in some professional niche where she fits the demands of her workday world… but, in the road-warrior community, her status at the shop didn’t transfer. Put someone in the context of their confidence, and leadership commands respect. Take the same person out of their familiarity, and their leadership fades to black. World-class at the office… but lowest-quartile on their frontier.
As I rode the bus out to the small-plane complex, I thought about how that phenomenon repeats in the bigger issues of life. Men and women spend thousands of hours – and, tens-of-thousands of dollars – to become sophisticated in the ways of the world of their work. Experience is the accumulation of confidence in the roles – and, the environments – where transactional life orchestrates the exchange of goods and services in the career life that consumes the majority of their waking hours. They’re professionals… and, likely, leaders whose prominence grows as they reach higher rungs on the ladder of career achievement.
Take those same commanders outside their familiarity – drop them into the climate of eternity; what Jesus calls “the Kingdom” – and many become uncomfortably tentative: not fully worked out, concluded or agreed on; provisional. Indicating a lack of confidence or certainty; hesitant.
Perhaps the only thing worse than a leader being tentative is to be brash: presumptuously forward; impudent. Hasty or unrestrained without regard for consequences. Arresting, pronounced or ostentatious.
The easiest thing to do is to confine one’s activities to the area of one’s expertise and experience, and to avoid entry into alternative environments. Even better: develop the level of sophistication warranted by the importance of one’s participation in other settings. Once again, the easy thing to do is not the best thing to do, if one wants life to be rich, rewarding and recognized.
I propose that someone offer some service to confident Christian marketplace leaders – who perform with extraordinary excellence in their career pursuits – who find themselves likely to be tentative or brash when they move into the domain of the divine and look for their calling in the Kingdom.
Oh, someone has already done that: it’s The Master’s Program.