Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Humble Beginnings for a Leader

from K

This was really the first time I've read about the choosing of Saul as king in detail. I find Saul likable at this part of the story. He has humility which later he lacks. He seems willing to take or leave the kingship, and recognize it's not by his doing or his deserving that he has it. Later this changes. Amazing what power will do to your pride. It's actually a fascinating story on lessons learned about human nature and the traps we fall into.

I've learned in the corporate world how much more powerful I was without any position of power. I fell into much of the same trap (embarrassed to admit). Back in the 1980's I was recognized in my company as a go-getter-- a dynamo. I outperformed most everyone around me through powers of influence, not authority. I had this way of just getting to know everyone in the organization and really caring about them and listening to them, and then connecting the right people to the right people and really getting projects done--not by my own ideas or abilities-- but simply by letting everyone else get done what they really wanted to get done in the first place. And I was having a ball-- not doing it for any other reason but that it felt good to finally see people happy at their jobs.

Then, when I got recognized, I got sort of picked, like Saul. This executive vice president / general manager (one of the top seven people in the entire organization of twenty thousand employees) noticed what I was doing and hired me to be his business unit division's organizational consultant. I reported directly to him, and for an entire year was allowed free reign to work my magic on all levels of his business unit from the production floor (there were two polymer plants-- one in Alabama and one in WVa) all the way to the executive team (him, his heads of R&D, Finance, Marketing, Production, and Quality Control). He met with me frequently and gave me all the strategic knowledge of the division and backed me up by asking every middle manager to support my work. (BTW, this was the same mentor who constantly talked about Jesus-- I thought he was nuts and just nodded thinking he was nuts, but hey, he was the big kahuna, no point arguing with him! :-) ) The year was incredible. I managed to help facilitate such sweeping great changes in the company that you could actually see the difference in morale and in the bottom line. And most of it happened with the same approach-- from the bottom up-- I remained, like Saul, surprised at it all-- not deserving of credit, and never taking it. I was kind and got along with everyone.

Then something changed. I think it was a combination of things-- I'll explain more later as I read how Saul changed. I'd like to think I didn't get as bad as Saul, because it's not really my nature to attack others or anything, but I became afraid for my position. You see, that same mentor ended up in a bind-- the division did so well, that when Goodyear (that was the company) was in trouble fighting a takeover bid from British financier James Goldsmith, they were lopping off any profitable division they could sell to fight Goldsmith-- and that made our highly profitable polyester resin business fair game. My mentor was forced into a rough position of having to keep his employees in the dark while meeting with suitors to try to sell his own division. He wasn't allowed to tell me about it, but in so many words, he did. And he worried for my position, knowing that a new owner of the business would immediately cut it.

I didn't care, I told him. I was highly marketable and could probably land a job with far higher salary and benefits (I did actually as I later ended up with Ernst & Young in a management position in consulting). But meanwhile he was convinced he needed to move me into the management ladder and pretty much did at my objections. I hated it. It was brutal and the employees were terrified of the upcoming acquisition and terrified of losing their jobs, and angry and resentful at my mentor for betraying them with the sale of the division and associated me with him.

The experience was awful, and perhaps a better leader could have weathered it. I became extraordinarily defensive of my position. It helps me to understand Saul's defensiveness towards David later.

Enough for now. I'm enjoying reading about Saul. Interesting how Nahash wanted the people of Jebesh to gauge their right eyes out in exchange for peace? Yuck! Thank goodness Saul stepped in and defeated the Ammonites!

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