When you are a leader, you are always under a microscope. While aspects of this are unfair and wrong, most of it is legitimate, necessary and important. When you are a leader, people are looking to you for….leadership.
Whether you are a leader in government, church, military, education, the non-profit or corporate world, people will always be looking to you for leadership. Whether you are a person of faith or not, as a leader you need to be a person of character. Character matters deeply. Character is what you say and do, most significantly when no one is looking or listening. If you are a person of faith, character is even more important and the Bible makes it crystal clear that the standard and expectations are higher for leaders. This is the reality of leadership, people rightly expect more of you. If you cannot handle this or do not like it, do not lead.
As a leader, the microscope can be hard, intimidating, hurtful and frustrating. It can also make you a better person and a better leader. While as a leader, every area of your life is under a microscope and that is right, it is not always reasonable.
For the leadership microscope to examine your behavior, your character, your words, your morality and your leadership is entirely reasonable and fair. For the leadership microscope to examine your hair, clothing, your weight, your wealth, race or gender is unreasonable, unfair and is not right.
Leaders certainly need to have thick skin and have to accept the reality of the leadership microscope, but they also are called to speak out against the places where the microscope does not belong. As for the fair and reasonable parts of the leadership microscope, embrace them. Allow the examination of your life to build your character and humility. Examine the comments you receive for they all have at least a kernel of truth, even the most ridiculous, uninformed and unfair comments.
While there is much debate about the nature and the place of the leadership microscope, there is one area where we can all agree it does not belong, is on the children of leaders. Kids are off limits. They are children and need to be protected from the leadership microscope. It is not the job of the the people and organization you lead to judge your kids or your parenting. While it takes a village to raise a child, your children are off limits to the leadership microscope. The village should only help where invited or where a deeper relationship exists.
The children of leaders are not leaders, they are children. When I say kids, I do not mean those 18 and under. When I say kids, I speak developmentally, those who are 25 and under because its not until that age at the earliest that the brain is fully developed. Children are off limits. Its not right or fair to criticize or attack the children of leaders for their behavior. Children tend to act like, well, children. Adolescents tend to act like—adolescents. They are just children. They did not choose to be children of leaders. They do not belong under the leadership microscope. They are to be left alone. They are off limits whether they are children of leaders in government, church, education, military, non-profit and the corporate world. Children are off limits. They already are forced to live in the limelight of leadership, being known by far more people than they could ever know, constantly being watched, constantly being evaluated. It is incredibly destructive. They are just children, leave them alone. They are off limits.
Recently, I intentionally dyed parts of my hair bright orange. Orange, because it is my favorite color. I used a color that is not a natural and normal hair color to make a point. The point was simple: as a pastor and a leader, I am not community property. Its not anyones business what my hair style looks like. My children are not community property either. The second reason I did this to my hair was to protect my children. They were getting too much of the leadership microscope. They were experiencing a lot of judgment about things that do not matter. My 11 year old, sensitive, adolescent daughter received some snarky and hurtful comments about her hair from some that I lead. It happened in a place that is supposed to be a safe place. After too much of the leadership microscope, both my children don’t want much to do with that organization I lead and that is a tragedy. So I am using this opportunity to make a point, to stick up for my kids, to distract from them, to remind them that I love them more than my leadership, my work or those I lead. I am also doing it to make a point about where the leadership microscope does and does not belong with me and with the rest of my family. I am using as an opportunity to teach others about the leadership microscope.
Children, children are off limits.