​​Day 12 – the Rule of Three

HORNILLOS DEL CAMINO – I’ve spent the last two nights at Hospitals (hoss-pee-tal) that are Camino-historic places without power, lights or warm showers. So I was unable to post. 

It is a challenge to walk out of the large cities as The Way is not always clearly marked.  Actually, it is quite well marked but there is so much competition the yellow arrows get lost.  One of the Camino lessons I’ve learned is when I’m unsure of The Way, to stop and not move until I see a sign.  This morning I have much opportunity to put this learning into practice.

Today I have set aside to think about the leadership principal I call The Rule of Three.  It goes something like this: An average leader picks (or concentrates on) two of these three mutually exclusive areas:

The People

The Institution

Their Ambition

Some leaders pick The People and The Institution, and turn out not being so ambitious; Others pick The Institution and their Ambition, and rise rapidly in their organization.  The really great leaders are able to pick all three, but they are rare.  Sometimes a leader picks only one (their Ambition) and the people and institution suffer.

Which way do I go?

In my first church I am pretty sure I picked The Institution (of the local church) and my Ambition.  On returning from Africa (2006-08) and I chose differently at the churches I served.  I picked The People, and The Institution (of the local church) and mothballed my ambition.  The choices we make not only define our work but highlight where we will likely get into trouble.

In the 1950s Billy Graham defined a set of guidelines he called The Modesto Manifesto,  I won’t go into it here but it was his observation that most leaders got into trouble from their abuse of sex, money, or control.  The Manifesto was a set of guidelines to prevent said abuses. In leadership, we call these abuses Career Ending Moves (CEMs).  Look at any leader who has fallen and you can point to one of those three as the cause. These CEMs map well into the Leadership Rule of Three

Ambition: Control

Institution: Money

People: Relationships

So depending on what two a leader picks will determine his/her vulnerability.  In my first church, not picking the people was exactly what got me into trouble.  Even though I served that church for seven years and it went from 52 in worship to over 250, Suzanne and I retained only a few close friends.  But at the next two churches where I served a much shorter time, I did pick the people, we have kept lots of friends, and both churches actively support our ministry, and we’re remembered well.

But there is nothing like picking ambition, where you go to bed dreaming of the great thing you could do, and awaken ready to go at them, and by not having picked ambition, I miss having those feelings.

The Way is in my heart

So those are my thoughts today as I walk.  It’s a good day to walk, the air is cooled by the impending rain storm that passersby tell us will start about 3pm.  So I walk fast and for the whole day no one comes close to passing.  I’m a monster of The Camino, burning up the trails at a blazing 5kph.

Pointing the way at the foot of the cross. Seems appropriate

The Rule of Three works on the Camino too, you either focus on your ambition meaning the destination for the day; The Institution, meaning how you walk The Camino (if you stop to go in churches or take pictures) or The People – focusing on those you walk with. Today I’m focused on my destination, and how fast I get there.  I think I speak to only one person, Bridget from Belgium, and after a few minutes I blow right past her too.

The thing is, when you focus on The Institution, it can never say thanks (or return love for your efforts). It remains loyal to you as long as you remain productive to it.  When you’re worn out, the Institution will soon be done with you.

Focus on the People and they will be grateful, and show love well, but they can’t advance your ambition.  And when you pick Ambition, well, I’ll have to get back to you on that.  Not enough data.

Today I think I have heard The Camino ask me to make sure that Ambition is part of my next Rule of Three in whatever comes next.  I really don’t know what it will look like, but know to find The Way, I must stop and look for a sign.

Epilogue: Tonight I had dinner with Carroll, a retired financial planner from Florida. He is a fast walker, and when I walk with him, we cover some ground, but at day’s end, I have few pictures, and not much to show for it other than the distance covered and an early arrival.  Our pilgrim’s meal conversation echoes that as we talk about how fast we walked, and how early we got in.    

That night I have fitful dreams again, filled with demons shaming me about how this Camino is going.  Stop being such a tourist-pilgrim, stop wasting so much time at the sites, get to Santiago… Later, I see the pages they are reading from, and what I thought had been made custom for me, was actually stacks of mimeographed slips of paper, in purple ink with that smell freshly run.  This was a generic shaming, and not connected to my Camino, but to discourage me. 

I wake up thinking about my first church, all the children I baptized, or buried, the couples I counseled,  or married. I carry those memories, and can’t blame them for not staying in touch; after all, I picked the Institution and Ambition, not them.  The trouble is, the Institution can not return the love you give, nor can it show love.  I wake up rethinking the decisions I made yesterday about ambition and the future.  



2 thoughts on “​​Day 12 – the Rule of Three

  1. It was interesting to read that you think you chose the institution and your ambition at Foundation. I do agree you didn’t choose the people, and I know I was fortunate to have been one of the people you did choose. I am not sure you chose ambition, however. Since I have known you, I feel that I have seen you always putting your ambition last .
    Thank you for reminding me I have a mystic side which I think I have been ignoring for too long.

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