Last month I attended a professional development and networking luncheon. It was more interesting than it sounds.
Something from that lunch has stuck with me – and I don’t mean the dozens of announcements or painfully basic tips on getting involved in social media.
During a conversation about the characteristics that make up a leader, the woman facilitating our discussion told a story.
A woman was walking down the street and saw three men, each one digging a hole in the ground. The woman stopped and asked the first man, “What are you doing?”
That man didn’t hesitate at all. He answered, “I’m digging a hole.”
The woman moved on to the next man and asked him, “What are you doing?”
This man looked at his toolbox, then back at the woman. Then he said, “I’m building something.”
The woman walked a bit further and reached the third man. She asked, “What are you doing?”
That man leaned back on his shovel and stared into space for just a moment before replying, “I’m creating a cathedral.”
Each of those men performed the same task, but they had different perspectives on why they were doing it. The point of that story, as I’m sure you can figure out, is that a leader is someone who not only completes the task at hand, but also understands how it fits into the larger goal and shares the vision of that bigger picture.
I left that luncheon a little disappointed, as I’d hoped to take away some more tangible tips for positioning myself as a leader. But later, as I sifted through the stack of business cards I’d collected that day, I kept coming back to that phrase: creating a cathedral.
I thought about creating a cathedral and what that means to me. I thought about it as I listened to Matchbox 20 sing about being the head honcho. I thought about it as I read blog posts by stay-at-home moms who consider themselves family managers. I thought about it as I looked at my to-do list and wished I could delegate the less fun tasks to someone else.
And I realized I’d learned more than I realized about leadership.
Leadership is more than being in charge, being the boss of somebody. It’s more than a fancy office or an impressive title. It’s more than having underlings follow your directions; it’s more than having underlings.
Leadership is about stewardship. It’s about understanding that each item on our to-do list is part of a goal, a vision. Even when it’s not fun. Or seemingly important. Or glamorous, rewarding, gratifying. And it’s about doing those things well, because the bigger picture is more important than the tedium, the boredom, the sweat, the tears.
It’s remembering that writing 300 press releases in one month, while repetitive, is my contribution to the success of 650 small businesses across this country. It’s remembering that balancing my checkbook, though boring and full of math, is the accountability that keeps my family within the budget that will free us from debt. It’s remembering that changing diapers, while at times disgusting, is a gesture of love to my daughter.
I become a leader – even when I’m just leading myself – when I treat my tasks as part of the bigger picture that I believe in. And – no big surprise here – it’s what God tells us to do anyway.
While the image of a cathedral is new to me, the idea of working with honor no matter how large or small the task, is one the Lord has taught me over and over. After yet another reminder a few months ago, I finally wrote it out on a giant post-it and stuck it above my computer at work:
“Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men.”
Your to-do list may look different than mine, but we can all create a cathedral with even our most mundane tasks. What is your cathedral today?Leave a Comment
Jenni Saake "InfertilityMom" says
Thank you. As a homeschooling mom, there are days when the “dailiness” seems overwhelming. Thank you for the great reminder that ever task is just a tiny piece of a much greater goal of building young men and women who will grow up as Temples of the Holy Spirit, intent on doing His work. What beautiful cathedrals God has entrusted me with, one shovel-scoop, dirty dish, spelling test and bottom wipe at a time! 🙂
Thanks so much for this wisdom! It’s pretty timely for me. Maintaining diligence, with the right mind set, all the time, is something that the Lord is still working on in me. My cathedral this week… diligently maintaining successful programs at work, working hard on pre-marital counseling homework, and graciously and cheerfully planning a Christ-centered wedding that will hopefully encourage and impact our friends and family. I hope you have a great week! I’m definitely going to try and keep the cathedral word picture in my mind.
Jennifer Sikora says
I gave you guys an award! Be sure and stop by and pick it up!
Thank you for sharing this nugget.
this post is so timely for me. thank you for sharing. i love how the Lord provides these bits of encouragement in unexpected ways. i’ve been placed in a few leadership positions and am in a time of great transition and uncertainty. it has forced me to see things just as you’ve described. thank you!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I would also like to point out that this is a good anecdote to illustrate the importance of leaders sharing their vision with their followers and make sure they get it right. This will increase the motivation of followers. Sometimes people get so bogged down to their to-do list that they can get easily frustrated in what they do. Leaders need to be around to keep them focused on the vision to be accomplished. Vision is a leadership characteristic that needs to be shared.
Just what I needed to hear today! My “cathedral” today is my home–and all that goes into cleaning and maintaining it.
NOT fun. But if I look at the bigger picture as being a good steward of somethng God has blessed me with, it does make doing my chores a bit more important than it seems 😉
This is good. I needed it. I forget sometimes why I’m doing what I’m doing– why we’ve made the choices we have. Wonderful insights.
I needed this reminder today. I’ve read many times that the great cathedrals of the world often took more time to build than the lifetimes of those men who started digging the holes. Those men never saw the magnificent finished product of their work. But they believed in the architect.
I did too. I do. I instructed my children in the Word of the Lord; I taught them His love. And I had the long view even then. While I was changing diapers and singing songs, I was aware that I was building lives.
Then Satan attacked my family. And now my grown children have abandoned the God they knew and used to love. I am trusting our Architect, our God, who promised me that, if I taught my children to know Him, they would return to Him.
I may never see my cathedrals, but I have to trust God to finish His work in them. I would so much love to see this before I die, but that may not happen. My role now is to pray and to TRUST.
I need the reminder of this sometimes… I only do little things now, not the big things I was used to doing. But each little thing from my little condo that affects a person’s life is a part of the big picture.
I want to always remember that each little thing should be done with the same grace and attention I used to give the big things.
What a great way to put into words what so many of us forget. Thank you.
FANTASTIC post, Mary! What a great way of looking at things. Life really is all about our perspective!
i can get such tunnel vision that i lose sight of the bigger vision. when i stare at the “hole i’m digging”—the piles on my desk, my email inbox, the myriad of menial things that make up my day—i can forget that i’m building a cathedral. as i tell my staff team all the time, “it’s all Kingdom business.” i need to remember that myself more often. all the small things i’m doing are a part of cathedral-building.
“I become a leader
Please know, Rachel, that I was speaking to myself first. Self-control and commitment have NOT been words that describe me for a long while!
The little things can get us down if we let them. And to be honest, Ive let them for a long time. Its funny how a cheesy (at the time) story at a boring (at the time) luncheon has spoken so strongly to me.
I forget it, too, Tricia. 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting!
Sara, I understand what youre saying. But to me, the things you do are HUGE.
This: “I become a leader
Hillary @ The Other Mama says
Love this, Mar.
I think that there is a great story out there somewhere about moms building cathedrals that very much relates to this. It talks about the people of the middle ages who built the cathedrals, but never got to see them completed and compares it to the long and often unnoticed work of moms.
Thanks for the great reminder!
I think youre right. I have a faint memory of reading that story, too. Interesting that cathedrals can inspire us in so many ways!!
Well, thank YOU for the kind words, Lisa-Jo! Its funny how God can give us a good word even when we think we didnt learn a thing. 🙂
Priscilla, thank you so much for sharing your heart and your situation with us. Im so sorry to hear about your children. I pray you DO get to see them return to their First Love in this lifetime!!!
I need that reminder every single day, Amy! ESPECIALLY when it comes to cleaning my house! 🙂
Great point, Fernando! Im thankful that my boss at work shares his vision with us and gets us excited about where our company is going – its a great example of what you just said!
Yes, I love the unexpectedness of it! I was just sure that lunch had been a waste of time – and now look what He did! 🙂
Lindsey, you have no idea how convicting your words were to me! When I think back to planning my wedding, cheerful and gracious are two ways I would NOT be described! What a great reminder to treat our friends and family with care, with respect, with LOVE – no matter the circumstances. I tend to forget that building relationships is all part of the cathedral that God has planned for us. Thank you for the reminder. 🙂
As a teacher, I get bogged down in the grading and the planning and the thousand other small tasks that are thrown at me everyday. I constantly have to remind myself that I am giving these students the skills they will need for the rest of their life. I am training up the next generation of business owners, designers, educators, parents and scientists. I am helping 12 year olds figure out who they will be. What a job!
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