These are the descendants of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God.”
In today’s reflection I want to suggest a practice that will enrich your leadership. I’m calling it “walking with God on the balcony.” Yes, this is a classic mixed metaphor. But I think it might bring together two practices that are essential for leaders.
First, walking with God. In Genesis 6:9, Noah is described as one who “walked with God.” His intimacy with God was one of the main reasons God selected him for a crucial leadership role. In the previous chapter of Genesis, Enoch was said to have “walked with God” (5:24). He also had a deep, abiding, consistent relationship with the Lord. As I suggested in yesterday’s edition of Life for Leaders, walking with God is essential for leaders in all contexts, not just in specifically religious settings. If we want to serve the Lord well through our leadership, then we need to know the Lord well.
Second, on the balcony. This phrase comes from the seminal work on leadership by Ronald Heifetz. He uses the metaphor of a dance to describe different functions of leadership. Often, the leader is participating in the dance as one of many on the floor. Yet, at times the leader needs to leave the floor and “get to the balcony.” Heifetz explains, “To discern the larger patterns on the dance floor — to see who is dancing with whom, in what groups, in what location, and who is sitting out which kind of dance — we have to stop moving and get to the balcony” (from Ronald A. Heifetz, Leadership without Easy Answers). From the balcony we gain perspective. We see the big picture. We are able to think more synthetically and creatively about our leadership challenges and opportunities.
Putting Genesis and Heifetz together, I would propose that we need to walk with God on the balcony. By this, I’m envisioning intentional times of getting away from our work in order to gain needed perspective, but not simply watching alone. Rather, as we gaze upon the people and processes that have been entrusted to us, we do so in conversation with God. We talk with God about what we see, and what he sees. We raise our questions, offer our suggestions, explain our analysis, and share our vision. We test our version of reality by God’s version. We listen to what God might have to say to us. We think about our work in light of Scripture and the gospel that lies at the center of the biblical story.
In tomorrow’s Life for Leaders devotion, I will share a recent experience I have had of walking with God on the balcony. In the meanwhile, I’d ask you to reflect on your leadership in light of the following questions.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How does the notion of walking with God on the balcony strike you? Does it seem sensible? Essential? Contrived? Unnecessary? Helpful?
In your life and leadership, are there times when you walk with God on the balcony? When? What happens if you do this?
Can you think of practical ways to spend more time walking with God on the balcony?
Gracious God, thank you for the metaphor of walking with you, and for how doing this can enhance both our lives and our leadership. Thank you also for the insights of Ronald Heifetz, and for the striking image of getting to the balcony.
Help us, Lord, to learn how and when to leave the dance floor of our leadership in order to get to the balcony. Give us wisdom to build into our lives the disciplines that will give us new perspective on our work. Teach us also, we pray, to learn to walk with you in these times, to share what we’re thinking with you, to attend to what you might wish to say to us through your Word and by your Spirit.
Even today, Lord, may I walk with you on the balcony. Amen.
This post originally published on August 7, 2015.