Have you ever seen the movie Braveheart? Mel Gibson’s character William Wallace is an excellent example of what I’m talking about. He was “out in front” of the army of men he assembled to fight for freedom. The men were willing to risk their lives partly, at least, because Wallace was willing to risk his. He didn’t hang back and expect his men to do the “dirty work.” He was willing to do the dirty work himself. He was “in the trenches” with his men.
We don’t often have to risk our lives as leaders but I have found that a team will rally around a leader who is willing to “get his/her hands dirty.” I have a good friend that has told me a number of times that he respects those leaders that are visibly willing to do what they are asking of others. In the church, there are many examples of this and many opportunities to earn the respect of those you are leading by being an example for them to follow.
For example, every Sunday following 3rd service we stack hundreds of chairs to clear the room and get it ready for our student service that evening. Our all-volunteer Teardown Team is always there, but we always need more help. You know what they say, “many hands make light work.” Anyway, I will usually go around and recruit a few helpers to make the task go faster. I always try to get in there myself, though. I enjoy serving alongside our volunteers and it means much to them that I do. Most Sundays I only actually get a couple of stacks done due to other priorities, but stacking a few myself goes a long way.
I don’t mean to suggest that you always have to do all of the work alongside your team. As time goes on and you have more and more issues to occupy your time it gets more difficult. I still think that on occasion it’s important to be in the trenches. I would also add that it’s especially important to be “out in front” when you’re asking your team to do something that they don’t find particularly enjoyable or “part of their job description.” I’m often the first guy to empty the trash or clean a toilet … right after rallying the troops to do so. I say, “Let’s go” just before beating them to the first trash can!