True leadership means letting go of control

Published 9:07 am Monday, August 12, 2013

Column: Something About Nothing, by Julie Seedorf

I own my house. I own my car. I own the clothes I wear. The definition of own means: to have or possess as property, to have control over.

There are times when we own something that it gives us power over another. For instance, if someone owns a business and they have employees, they have power to expect those employees to do the job for which they were hired.

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If someone is abusing my property I have the power to tell them that I expect them to stop.

This is where it gets sticky in life in our communities and our churches and other places in our lives. It becomes a leadership issue. Do you lead your committees in our communities and in our churches and other organizations with an owner mentality or a leader mentality?

I have a friend that I believe is a true leader. She has been in charge of many committees, many projects. She has been elected to be committee chairwoman, time and time again. She has spearheaded efforts for many different projects and committees in churches and the community. I have worked under her, and I believe she is a true leader.

This person organizes the tasks and delegates them to her committee people. She keeps in touch with them so that there is good communication between everyone. She is the glue that puts all the parts of the pieces together. Her committee people are her pieces and parts that do the work.

She doesn’t micromanage. She trusts that these people are going to get done what she has given them to do. She completes her tasks. She does not possess the project nor does she become the owner of the project even if the project was her idea to begin with.

This person listens to others, gives others a chance to shine and steps in diplomatically if things are going awry, still letting the pieces solve the puzzle.

I have worked under this person, in co-ordination with her, and most always I would say yes to working with her or for her. She does not view herself as the owner of the project having control over all the decisions. She does not rule with control but with mindfulness and awareness that it is everyone’s project that is on that committee.

I do have to tell you, this person almost always accomplishes with she sets out to do and has many followers because of the way she has done this. To me, that is the sign of a great leader.

Everything seems to be in flux today. Maybe part of it is because of leadership styles. People try to enact change in our communities, in our churches, in our committees, but in some instances ownership in these venues has taken precedence over true leadership causing people to feel they are no longer part of the working partnership. Ownership of groups and committees instead of leadership causes a drop off of members and growth of establishments.

If people feel their opinion is no longer being heard when they are a part of something, and they are no longer of value, they will become silent or leave altogether. These members don’t want to always feel right; they want to feel valued. And so they leave and move on to seek a place where their talents are appreciated. As a result, organizations die, churches close and communities struggle.

Everyone brings something different to the table. I don’t think those that claim ownership do it on purpose. I am sure I have claimed ownership in the past instead of leadership and I didn’t do it on purpose.

Why am I writing this? I do not think that we think about leadership or ownership very much when we become involved in something. Maybe we should.

In a community, there is no one owner. We are all part of that community. In a church there is no one owner, except God; we are all part of that church. A conversation I had with someone sparked this column, and made me examine my own leadership skills. Am I an owner or am I a leader? What are you?

“People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives.” — Theodore Roosevelt


Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at