Titles seem to matter a lot to people. Not to me, of course. I’d like to think I am much more evolved as a leader. This past summer, my wife Tricia made an observation and it shocked me. “You tend to reference your title when you’re telling a story about work that frustrates you,” she said. Of course, she was wrong! Of course, in the context of the story I told to my wife, it was appropriate, nay, essential to, include that bit of contextual information. After all, despite 12 years of marriage, it might be possible that she didn’t know what my job was. However, it wasn’t until this month, when I was asked to submit a magazine article, that my title entitlement came back into my consciousness. As I often do, I asked one of our team members, Lori, to proofread the article. She corrected my commas and some clunky sentences and then made this observation, “You reference your title a lot. I think they get it.” Undeterred by my startled face, Lori, who is great about giving and receiving feedback, continued, “Yeah, you kind of do it a lot.” My DAN-ial intensified. I asked for just one example and Lori had more than enough that quickly came to mind.
As I was forced to “lower my gaze with humility”, the reticular part of my brain kicked into high gear and I began to see it everywhere. The most upsetting part was not the invocation of the title, but rather what lay beneath it. It wasn’t all the time. It was, as Tricia noted, in moments of frustration. It was in moments where I believe I deserved more than others. I had to ask myself, is my role more about what it brings me or what I bring to others? Does the respect I really want come through authority or through mutual care and service of those I have the privilege to lead? And, if authority is important to me, do I look toward Jesus’ ultimate model of servant leadership as my template on how to lead with authority? I’ve set up a nickel jar at work and at home to help me stay focused on who I want to be. Whether your title is CEO, DRE, Monsignor, Excellency, or mom or dad, let’s ground ourselves in the One in whom authority truly rests and in what our roles are all about. Otherwise, it might cost us and in more than just nickels.