When Leaders Have Trouble with the Curve
If you watched the baseball playoffs and the World Series it’s clear that most professional baseball players have a hard time hitting a good curveball. There is a different kind of curve that challenges every leader. It is the direction we are curved toward the people we lead and the organizations we serve.
There is a Latin term for one of the ways we can be curved as leaders. It is incurvatus en se. It means to be “curved in on one’s self.” The mental picture is striking. To be inwardly curved is to live and lead in such a way that everything that happens around us gets pulled in to the focus that we have on ourselves. Leaders who are incurvatus en se take an ownership approach to their work. They own their job, they own their people and they own the goals and strategies of their organization. Curved in leaders tend to tie their identity to their job. Advancement and recognition are what drive them because everything they do must prop up a self-image that is tied to vocational success.
Owner leaders thirst for control, have a need to be right, crave recognition, are intimidated by the success of their peers and are driven to succeed. How else would a leader operate when their worldview always curves them back to them self?
The opposite of incurvatus en se is found, I believe, in Jesus’ provocative call from Matthew 16:25, “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” The leader who is willing to “lose their life for Christ” is one who is curved out toward the world. This is the posture of the steward leader.
Stewards understand that everything in life, indeed everything in all of creation belongs solely to God. Therefore, they take on their role as a leader with a heart of a faithful steward. In this way they have been set free to change the curve of their life. Being curved outward toward others, steward leaders give away control, empower others, deflect praise and are driven by faithfulness. Their identity is anchored in Christ and so they are free in relationship to their job and the people they lead and serve. How else would a leader operate when their worldview is curved out in self-giving and generosity to the world around them?
As a leader, which way are you curved? Overcoming incurvatus en se is hard. It requires repentance, surrender, and the ongoing transformation of our heart from owner to faithful steward. If, as a leader, you are having trouble with your curve, start today through prayer and repentance to let God reshape you into the man or woman—and leader—he created you to be.
Written by Scott Rodin