This is a picture of my friend Mark Adams being coached regarding his calling and purpose in front of 27 leaders at our WiLD Leaders Coaching Certification in Seattle this past week.  Mark is a senior leader in the Free Methodist Church of the USA who is a leader of leaders of leaders. While this isn’t his first leadership rodeo at that level, he is in a transition from one conference to another. If you are a business leader, it would be like moving from one product division to another, and in the process, transporting your family and life to another part of the country.

While it’s always a risk to put your friends in a box, Mark would strike you as a very strong and formidable leader. He is sometimes soft-spoken, but is clear and convicted when he speaks – and he is FULL of purpose. Mark is one of the wonderfully weird leaders with whom I get to work. He isn’t weird because he’s awkward or strange, but because he is driven by results, but not defined by results. He is defined by a vision for his life that is larger than any success marker, goal, or paycheck. Mark is always seeking to be defined by a faith and purpose that transcend him. The key word though is seeking. Like so many leaders, he wrestles with the fact that sometimes the pressure to get things done or to focus on the goal feels like it trumps that purpose. In this coaching conversation in front of us, that’s when it got real for Mark, and meaningful for all of us.  

Here are my thoughts after that coaching conversation.

  1. “Every leader needs someone who is always in their corner” – This is a direct quote from Rachel Shannon, our former Administrative and Operations Lead at WiLD Leaders.  Being a leader means going first, and going first means oftentimes being alone. Every one of us needs a coach, a mentor, or an advocate who will stand alongside us. It will get lonely, so we need to intentionally surround leaders.
  2. Leaders develop in the gaps, not in the answers – Tools that put us in a box and leave us there aren’t about development, but about giving us answers we want to hear. Affirmation and insight matter, but the stakes are too high for us to simply affirm everything the leader wants to hear without addressing the hard issues affecting them and their stakeholders.
  3. Success and significance sells, but it will eventually let us down – While we may be drawn to leadership development programs that make it look easy or provide the formula for success, leader development requires honesty about strengths and blindspots, about results and purpose, and about sacrifice and taking care of oneself. Any other formula is missing the mark.
  4. Vulnerability requires opening up – The latin definition of vulnerability is rooted in the word “wound”, and that’s why coaching leaders is delicate and thoughtful work. It requires conversations that may reveal wounds, fears, or soft spots, but at the same time reveals strength, resilience, and possibility for moving forward.

As you can imagine, Mark is humble when he reflects on his role and leadership. He is a leader I respect. Like any of us, he isn’t perfect, but he is seeking to become a better version of himself for the sake of those he leads and for the larger purpose that defines him.  I’m grateful he stepped out in front for this coaching conversation and modeled something for me that I want for myself.

– Dr. Rob McKenna



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