Fallacy of picking winners
February 28, 2007
We have a marvelous art curator at Tyndale, Sabrina Low. A fine painter, she has helped expand my love of art beyond the impressionists, Monet and Renoir, to abstract art.
Sometimes I look at abstract art and wonder, "Did the artist just throw cans of paint at the canvas?" They may have. But over time, I've learned to appreciate and even love some of it.
One evening while sitting with a group of aspiring artists in downtown Toronto, I looked over at their sketches and wondered what point they were trying to make. Then I looked at my charcoal sketches and asked myself the same. In conversation I tried to explain, but words weren't enough.
Could the same be true in our leading? I was asked by a member of our Student Council, "What makes a good leader?" I had a ready list, but I really didn't know. Line up ten people and ask them what made their leadership effective. There will be some crossovers—but most will admit they stumbled in the dark.
As I look across a graduating class, how able are we in assessing who will lead well in life? Or run your eye across a list of possible candidates for a position you are filling and tell me who will work and who won't. I've been wrong too often to feel much confidence in always getting it right.
Leadership, like painting, is an art. We learn various textures and characteristics of canvas, kinds of paint, technique and then we practice and practice and practice.
Since university graduation in the mid 1960s, I've spent my time leading various ministries. At times I was lousy, other times I think quite effective. And what made the difference? I don't know. What I've come to learn is that often the better moments are because of factors beyond our control: other realities shape the time and mitigating factors influence the opportunity. When I try real hard at being good at leading, at times I've tripped up, embarrassing myself and others. In moments when I forget about what I'm doing, it seems to work.
So what is the difference? I don't know. And not knowing is not the same as being "un-smart" or unspiritual.
Gracious God who in all times and places knows why some things work out and others don't, help me hold loosely what feels important for me to hold on to. For I know that when I'm at the point of defining what matters, in the light of Your appearance it no longer does. So Father, may I not be caught up in trying to figure out why sometimes things work out and not others, but may I rest in knowing that The Curator in time will explain. Amen.
The only thing that matters in art can't be explained.