Are You a Paddle or Pool Cue Leader?
Listening to the voice of the guide
Icons can be great reminders of spiritual truths. Consider these two for your leadership work: a paddle and a pool cue. Let’s start with the pool cue.
If you’ve ever played pool you know the object of the game is to pocket the pool balls before your opponent. To do so you stand over the table and make decisions about angles, positioning and strategy. This is a true cause-and-effect game. You strike the cue ball in your desired direction with the intent of creating an intended output. You must not only hit balls in pockets, you must position the cue ball well for the next shot. This is the ultimate game of controlling inputs to cause the desired output. Master pool players control the game from break to final made shot.
We can come to our daily leadership work with a pool player mentality. If we believe leadership success comes mostly from executing a series of controlled actions in order to control outputs, we are pool cue leaders. Make the right shots, move things in the direction they need to go, initiate the causes that bring about the desired effects, pay attention to how we position ourselves for the next action, and we will be successful. The fruit of this success are the outputs; balls pocketed with efficiency.
We might ask of a pool cue leader, where is God in all of this? It seems all that is required is to sharpen your shooting abilities, and the game will take care of itself. Where do we find a place for prayer, surrender, reliance on the Holy Spirit and the humble heart of the steward leader? Is there a better alternative for Christian leaders?
Consider the paddle. Have you ever been white water rafting? There are basically four components to a white-water rafting trip; a raft, a guide, a team of rafters, and a raging river. As you look down the river you immediately know that the guide is going to keep you alive. Each person has their place on the raft. Being the leader, people will be looking to you to show them the way. But you know if you are going to get your team down this river, you better be focused in listening to the guide…and doing everything he says! When your team approaches Class V rapids, the saying becomes critically important; ‘it’s not who your leading, but who’s leading you that matters.’ A great leader listens intently for the commands of the guide, and then conveys that word to his or her team. Even better, the leader equips the team to be able to hear the voice of the guide for themselves. When everyone agrees on the directions the guide is giving, everyone pulls together and navigates the river with ease…and joy.
In The Seventh Key, Barry tells his friend Jack,
“for me, being a successful leader is not about knowing how to direct my people, but making sure I’m listening to every word the guide says and passing that on to my people in a way that we can all paddle together.”
Which icon best illustrates your approach to leadership? If you find yourself holding on to a pool cue with a white-knuckled grip, trying to ‘make things happen’, it may be time for you to take Barry’s advice,
“We need to rethink our whole worldview, the whole way we look at life. You see, as long as we, if you will, want to play the Lord over our world like a cue master over a pool table, then we’ll never know the best life God has for us. It’s not about somebody else shooting the balls for us, it’s…well, to put it bluntly, it’s about setting down our cue, walking away, and looking at life and leadership from a completely different perspective.”
Is it time to stop trying to make things happen yourself and start listening intently for the voice of the guide? Are you ready to trade in your pool cue for a paddle? If so, then let Him set your course. He knows the way, and He will guide you every stroke of the journey for His glory. He will bless you as you surrender your leadership to him, face downstream and lead your team as a faithful steward.
 Rodin, R. Scott. The Seventh Key (Kingdom Life Publishing, 2015), p. 59.
 Ibid., p. 58.