Does Your Onstage Performance Reflect Your Backstage Practices?

News stories tend to focus on destructive and tragic events in our culture. Like most major metropolitan areas, the Chicago evening news fills the first ten minutes with murders, fires, accidents and natural disasters. Kind of a “bad news, then good news” approach, with emphasis on the bad news (like some preaching we hear!).

When it comes to leaders, we like to point out where they got it wrong. Politicians behaving badly, pastors talking arrogantly, athletes living shamefully – all these provide journalists with more than ample fodder for “BREAKING NEWS” at almost any moment of the day.

Because so many of us have a stake in a leader’s failure, we tend to overlook the leadership successes around us. After all, when a notable leader stumbles, it makes us feel better about ourselves, gives us someone to blame for our apathy and ignorance, or provides interesting lunch conversation for our otherwise boring and meaningless lives.

But when leaders get it right (and many do!), a lot of good stuff happens. We need to tell their stories – to our teams, our friends and ourselves!

Because when a leader gets it right

  • Energy flows to creating solutions and rather than making accusations
  • Team members feel empowered rather than overpowered
  • A compelling shared vision replaces a crippling ego-driven “visionary”
  • Conversations are truthful and gracious, instead of ruthless and tasteless
  • Tough decisions are boldly faced and, not cautiously feared
  • Movement is fostered by a mission, not forced through manipulation
  • Justice is rightly pursued not wrongly ignored
  • People feel honored and valued, not shamed and used
  • Success measures how people are treated, not just how profits are made
  • Workers are promoted by quality performance, not a deal-making cronyism

We need more of leaders who get it right, and we need to ferret out the real ones from the posers, the platform personalities who talk the leader game at conferences and conventions, but who play by a different set of rules behind closed doors. Lance Witt, writing in his book Replenish, describes this difference by comparing the leader you see on the front stage versus what is going on “back stage” where character, the soul and the real personality are seen.

We need real leaders whose performance “backstage” – off camera, away from the excitement and spotlights – is congruent with we see up front. Some are pressured to perform even thought their souls are damaged, and they cover their broken parts. Others are just mean “Jekyll and Hyde” types who present well publicly but are awful to work with, toxic to their staff and self-centered ego-driven tyrants.

Ask people who work with these leaders about the “back stage” persona – is it the same person you see “up front” in public settings? Are they as funny, winsome, easy going, and likable after their scripted, “front stage” persona is set aside and the back stage personality – the real person – emerges in the darkness?

Maybe that is why we give the media so much material to work with. But if we can become leaders with increasing integrity and healthier souls, admitting we are not the center of the universe, not letting the front stage make us posers, we will get it right.

And when leaders get it right…great stuff happens. It really is amazing. And the stories … oh, the stories are grand. They won’t make the evening news—they’ll just make the world a better place.

And that’s the real story.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Donahue

Bill’s vision is: “Resourcing life-changing leaders for world-changing influence.” Leaders and their teams need a clear personal vision and a transformational team strategy. This requires work in 3 key areas: Maximize Leadership Capacity, Sharpen Mission Clarity & Build Transformational Community. Bill has leadership experience in both the for-profit and non-profit arena. After working for P&G in New York and PNC Corp. in Philadelphia, Bill was Director of Leader Development & Group Life for the Willow Creek Church & Association where he created leadership strategies and events for over 10,000 leaders on 6 continents in over 30 countries.

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Recent Comments
I'm lost, to say the least! As a new pastor, taking over a newly started church I have read just about everything there is to learn what I can do to grow the church. I truly beleive that those attending our church are friendly and sincere. So that can't be the issue. I have read all the comments to this article and I feel that most churches will never have a fair chance! We are a VERY small church, so we don't have a children's church (yet). So if a family comes and gets upset that we don't have a children's church for them to put their children into, we lose! We do provide things for their kids to do during the service and even have an option for their kids to be in a different room, if they don't want their kids to sit with them. We are also such a small church that we don't have a worship team/band/etc. Our worship music comes from music videos. The congregation we do have likes it this way, but of course we would love to have a worhsip team. So, if someone comes to our church and is upset that we don't have live music, we lose! The point I am trying to make is that when people come in with preconceived ideas of what a church should be like, they will never find a church home, unless they find a church who's goal is to entertain! Every Sunday our message comes from the Bible, so that can't be a complaint for someone, so instead, people leave the church and never come back because they want more from a church: they don't want friendly people who are following the Word of God; they want a church that give them something (a babysitter for their kid, entertainment, free gifts, etc.) I'm sorry if sound cynical, I truly want everyone to hear the Good News and learn about Christ's love, but if they come in looking for something else, then the church will always lose!
 
— JAG
 
Reminds me Tony Morgan's classic post entitle “What If Target Operated Like A Church?” I wrote about this in a blog post "Is Your Church Like Target…or More Like A Mall?" https://goo.gl/2qQIy3
 
— bruceherwig
 
Challenging and very good
 
— John Gilbank
 

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