To Shame or To Inspire

Our family recently watched The Croods. Our kids loved different elements of the show, and as with all movies in a household containing pre-school aged children...our kids have enjoyed mimicking different phrases and scenes from their newest favourite movie.

I've always been fascinated by different forms of communication and the motivations that drive our need to communicate.

There are two characters in this film that personify the classic tension found in communication...to shame or to inspire. Grugg is the prototypical father figure. His desire is to keep his family safe, and he uses fear to keep his community in line. Guy, on the other hand, while desiring to see everyone remain safe, chooses to inspire the community through his communication style.

Watching these two individuals try to lead their community made me think. As parents and leaders we face the decision to shame or to inspire on a daily basis. These are the two primary voices of leadership that are at our disposal. The trouble is, the voice of shame has an extremely limited shelf life, but yet it seems to be the "default setting" for most leaders or parents.

Here are two questions that I'm using to help me evaluate which voice I'm leaning into.

Do I speak more about our disappointments? When I talk to my kids, other leaders, my wife or others, what do they hear from me? Do they hear more about where they might be failing or what is going wrong, or do they hear affirmation as well? While it is important to talk about where things could be improved or corrected, there has to be a healthy balance between affirmation and disappointment. Where there is a void of affirmation, things like ownership, internal motivation and hope will be lacking. You cannot expect someone to grasp a concept, idea or character quality that has never been demonstrated to them though a verbal & visual witness. Be the kind of person you want others to follow. Show them what a life filled with joy and hope looks like. Be a person of affirmation instead of a person of disappointment.

Am I trying to conform or transform? I have 3 young children at home. The temptation to want them to do what I want them to do is overwhelming at times. I will admit that there are seasons when all I'm looking for from them is to do what they are told in the way they are told to do it. This style of leading begs the question of whether or not I value conformity ahead of transformation. If we agree together that every human being is a unique creation, then conformity isn't possible. The best possible hope we could ever long for is transformation. Transformation speaks to the shared values and principles of human life, and not as much to practices (which are driven by values). If we want those under our care and influence to become who they were created to be, we have to be okay with tossing conformity out the window. The greatest compliment here on earth might just be when someone desires to pattern their way of life after yours. They will never be like you, but when they want to live like you live, they are really stating that they would like to adopt the values and principles that drive your life to be their own. Stop pursuing conformity and embrace the freedom found in transformation.

The next time you find yourself in a leadership role, ask yourself these two questions. You might be shocked at the answers you discover, and perhaps you'll need to make an adjustment to the way you lead.



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