Have you ever heard of the term mission before self? What does it really mean. We hear is most in the military, but it’s actually a term all organizations use. Non profits, private sector, government, schools, even our homes. We may not use those terms, but reality is every organization has something they have to accomplish regardless of what it takes. It may be fighting wars, cleaning toilets, flipping burgers, making soap etc. The question, is how far do we push our mission?

It’s this very question that triggered a 1 am binge prayer session for me. It was during this time that I was reminded of some of the most horrible leadership experiences of my life. Have you ever been under such horrible leadership that it changes you? I can relate. In fact the experience I’m about to share with you was so bad it transformed the way I lead today.

I was 16 years old. I was working at a local restaurant as a waitress. I was feeling great at the beginning of the shift. But it was about 4 hours into it that widespread pain took over my body. Al the sudden I felt like a train hit me. I was no longer able to even smile because I felt so bad. I had talked to my leadership and asked if I could go home. The answer was no. That was followed by constant harassment about the fact I was not smiling to the customers. Long story short 4 am hit and I had finally closed the restaurant and left it ready for the 6am shift. When my mom picks me up she was furious. With all God give rights! I was running a 104 degree fever (most likely since 6 pm when the symptoms started) and I was so weak I could barely get in the car. I ended up having a horrible flu, that kept me on the couch of my living room for a week. not by choice but because I didn’t have the strength to go up the stairs to my room.I got given all kinds of injections to try and help the symptoms die down, but nothing worked. I just had to ride it out. The sad part was that at no point did my leadership step in to help me close the restaurant. Instead they just talked on the phone and yelled at me because I was taking to long closing the restaurant.

This was when I learned a valuable lesson about what mission before self means. While it’s important to hold people accountable and complete tasks in a timely and efficient matter, it’s also important to see the needs of our team. When a team member is struggling we leaders need to be able to roll up our sleeves and get dirty with them. Not just bark orders and sit back watching as they fail. When our team fails, we have failed.

Now I want you to fast forward to just a few years ago. I had a friend who has a medical condition that is life threatening. She cannot live alone. Her husband was scheduled to leave the country for a year due to work. At the same time her daughter was diagnosed with cancer and had 2 small children to care for. My friends husband asked his employer to consider relocating his spouse to another facility that was closer to the rest of the family because of the situation. The organization has the ability to do that. It’s called compassionate reassignment. What came out of his leaders mouth was jaw dropping. Their immediate response was “That’s not this organizations problem”. Can you imagine having any loyalty to your employer after this? Frankly I don’t blame you if you don’t. I personally almost blew a head gasket! How was this man supposed to carry out a mission, when in the back of his head was the thought of his family not being taken care of? This brings me to my next point.

Taking care of your team and getting involved is part of the mission. After numerous phone calls and emails, the higher levels of leadership caught wind of the situation and relocated this family within just a few weeks. The family got taken care of and my friends hubby was able to fulfill the mission his organization had assigned. Had the other leadership not stepped in they could have lost a valuable team member. This man is not only brilliant, but also very dedicated and does all things with excellence. He’s been top of the class in all training, and performs his job to the highest level of integrity. Not only has saved the organization money but also has improved their performance.

Leadership goes far beyond a title and the power. In fat that power has to be used responsibly. It can either build up or destroy. While we can not accommodate for everything , we must be flexible. We must be willing to lean back at times and give room for our team to be human. We must understand that our mission as leaders includes taking care of our team so that they can then carry our mission. Treat your team the same way you would want to be treated.

Mission before self is not about neglecting self and what is important to us, it’s about having enough balance and wisdom to recognize that sometimes we must loose a battle to win the war. That the mission is not just the goal but also every element that directly or indirectly affects it’s outcome. Not accessing all of the factors influencing the mission is like going out to fight a war with no weapons. Take care of your people and they will take care of you. Not out of duty but out of honor and respect.

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