By Angela Noel
June 30th, 2016
A little more than four years ago, a leader of his church pulled Doug Timothy aside for a pleasant but purposeful conversation. Doug wondered if he would be asked to serve the church community in some way, perhaps as a teacher or a youth advisor. But the leader had a different, far scarier, role for young Doug in mind.
Could Doug, at thirty-four, lead the community of 355? Could he counsel them? Serve them? Help them? Guide them? Could he do all that and still hold a full time job and be the husband and father he aspired to be? Fear, not pride, filled Doug as he and wife Darci considered the request.
In Doug’s Mormon faith, one cannot campaign or apply to lead. It’s not an elected office, or a job, or even something one can volunteer for. Instead, one must be called. But “being called” is complicated. It’s a feeling, but it’s not. It’s a request, but it’s not. The leader says the words, but the words themselves, or rather the ideas they convey, are not really his.
Like I said, it’s complicated.
The essence of who or what animates the best of our thoughts and actions, calling us forth, is far beyond my ability to articulate. But a guy named Waldo had a thing or two to say on the subject.
“A man is the facade of a temple wherein all wisdom and all good abide,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his essay The Over-Soul. “Of this pure nature every man is at some time sensible. Language cannot paint it with his colors. It is too subtle. It is undefinable, unmeasurable, but we know that it pervades and contains us. We know that all spiritual being is in man.”
This pure nature, known by many names in many spiritual, religious, and mindfulness traditions, called Doug that day. He was not asked to serve, he was asked to allow love to serve through him.
Four years after he accepted the call, Doug glows with compassion. Love spills from him, a wellspring. Fear of failure faded as he realized his leadership purpose was not to know all the answers, but to pay attention when a path forward opened. His term has no end date, no moment when he must step down or find a replacement. When it’s time, he’ll just let go.
“A call to serve can be for many reasons,” Doug explains, a twinkle in his eye. “Maybe the call is because Doug Timothy has a thing or two to learn.” He often talks of his admiration for the patience of his father or the generous spirit of his mother. He honors the good in others around him, seeing a hundred ways he can be a better man, a better husband and father. And yet every day he leads with confidence.“I’ll be driving home and it’ll pop into my mind that I should visit someone. So, I do. They’ll see me standing on their doorstep and say, ‘How’d you know? How’d you know I needed you?’” Doug shrugs, a smile on his lips, “I just notice how I feel. When I feel it, I’ve learned to answer.” Simple.
Doug can do it, so can I. So can you.
Be awesome in real life.
For more on these ideas:
- “To lose the “self” is to suddenly realize you are something other than what you thought you were.” Anthony de Mello lecture on Awareness pt. 31 discusses the difference between “me” and “I”.
- Read the poem I am not I by Juan Ramon Jimenez
2 thoughts on “Leadership Should Feel Like This”
I have some times struggled with listening to myself because I don’t trust myself – there are a thousand people around me who “know better.” This feature on Doug put the idea of listening to oneself in a new light for me. It’s not about who knows best – it’s simply about noticing voices and signals around you, and being open enough to answer those calls. It’s noticing that my friend has had a rough week, and a donut surprise might do a bit to cheer her up. It’s feeling that my mind feels cloudy and my body feels creaky, and that some yoga, meditation, or a quiet run might do it some good. It’s self awareness manifesting in the best and most loving way towards others and towards myself. Something I need to practice though!
What a beautiful insight! Thank you for sharing, Julia! I love the word “practice.” Doctors study a long time to earn their degrees, and yet they “practice” medicine. Building self-awareness is like obtaining a degree in life, and then . . . we practice.
Comments are closed.