“Come on, you lazy chicks! Get out of bed! We have a lot to do today.”
Mrs. Turkey scolded, prodded, and threatened her chicks, but they remained obdurate, squeaking in the most annoying fashion as they huddled close together in the boughs of the tall blue spruce on the edge of our lawn.
The chicks tried to ignore Mom, but she kept at it. Eventually, they appeared, looking rather frazzled and unkempt as they flapped to the ground and watched their Mom carefully.
The problem with the whole scenario was that Mom was a hen turkey and the chicks were a flock of California quail that nested every year in our spruce tree. The turkey and the quail both believed they belonged together and Mrs. Turkey took her role of mothering very seriously.
Every day we were entertained as we watched the scenario play out — Mrs. Turkey guarding, herding, bossing, and flouncing around her chicks. The problem was that she could never get them to act like turkeys. Which was obvious to us, but not to her.
Mrs. Turkey had a real mental problem.
She not only thought the quail were her chicks, she also wanted to control them every minute of the day. She wouldn’t let them come out from under the low-hanging boughs of the tree until she was ready for them to emerge.
I saw them tentatively pecking at the ground, muttering to themselves in their quail talk. Eventually, they sent out a party of three or four brave souls who made a dash for freedom. Well! That would never do! She squawked and sprinted toward them, cutting them off at the pass. But behind her another little group sprinted to escape (quail forget they can fly). She would turn from the first group and go after the second group while the first group made it out.
And so it would go day after day. Our neighbor told us she herded them under their porch and would not let them come out until she was ready, keeping them captive for hours.
Which brings us to the first point in how NOT to be a good leader, whether it is a corporate CEO, a ministry leader, or a mother of your own brood of “chicks”.
1. Leadership Rule: Lead with gentleness, by example and don’t be a control freak.
Control is essential for the orderly running of anything we have going — whether it’s a business, church, government office, or home. Yet we can allow ourselves to become control freaks if we’re not careful, just like Mrs. Turkey who took her role too seriously. Her leadership went to her head.
Control gone bad is only about one person: the controller.
This person must be in charge or they’re not happy. The controllees aren’t happy, either. Mrs. Turkey eventually lost her following, and so may we.
Check your control urge. Has it gone out of whack? Or can you laugh at yourself, have fun with your kids or people, and turn issues over to God? Do you worry excessively? Worry is a passive/aggressive control issue. Learn to pray specifically about each situation, then leave your burden with the Lord, asking Him for wisdom and understanding.
2. Don’t expect too much or too little of those you lead.
Quail are not turkey chicks. A hen turkey is not made to be a mom to a flock of grown quail. Yet she tried to make it work with every fiber of her being.
I can’t fault her for her devotion or zeal. She was the most dedicated mother I’ve ever seen. But I imagine she was quite frustrated with her children because they didn’t act, sound or think anything like real turkeys. Of course they couldn’t: they were quail. The only thing they had in common was that they ate grain.
Pure zeal and activity will not make your little quails into turkeys.
I have been in leadership for many years in children’s ministry and ladies Bible studies and in other capacities. I know how difficult it is to fit someone who is round (figuratively speaking) into a square hole or position. Each person I’ve ever met is uniquely made and gifted by God to do specific tasks and ministries. I learned to find the person’s gift and give them tasks that fit them.
Assess the abilities, education, emotional stability, and skills of those you lead and don’t expect people to perform beyond that level. One part of good leadership is to train your people (or children) and help them grow. But they will not grow if they are fearful, continually harassed, or angry.
Mrs. Turkey couldn’t lead her flock of chicks very well because she was a control freak. Everyone was frustrated (except us as we were laughing our heads off!) because she expected them to be what they could not be.
You’ve heard the saying, “How can I fly with the eagles when I work with turkeys?”
Accept those under you and gently lead them to become an eagle even if they are, at heart, turkeys.
It’s always a good plan to lead by example and gentle encouragement. Much better than flapping your wings and making a lot of noise, trying to force those under you into submission.
3. Don’t over-protect those in your flock.
They came to the snowy ground under the bird feeders, and started to eat. But Mrs. Turkey acted strangely again. Chickadees, nuthatches and other winter birds fed at the feeder above her head, and she thought these smaller birds posed a threat. She tried to scare them away.
This involved whirling in a tight circle, flapping her wings and squawking.
I am not kidding.
The birds were not intimated by her actions, but we, looking on, about died laughing. I don’t know what the quail thought. In fact, I think I saw one who tucked his head under his wing like he was totally ashamed.
We laughed at Mrs. Turkey, but how many times do I act the same way? I perceive a danger and circle the wagons to protect my flock. The danger might not be real: it might be. Either way, I often act out of fear and worry and do things that are foolish to protect those under me from harm.
Our society is gung-ho to protect people when there is no danger. I remember making mud pies. I might have even EATEN some mud pies! What parent would allow that today? I remember allowing my girls to spend all day with their friends at a ranch where they rode horses without helmets and played without fear.
Over-protecting leads to fear. Fear leads to many ills. In leadership, we need to keep our people safe, yet free to explore, learn, have fun, and trust God.
Don’t be like Mrs. Turkey who over-reacted to a perceived danger. Ask God for wisdom each day and lead your flock kindly, lightly, and with great joy.
4. It’s always a good idea to get your eyes off yourself and focus on helping others succeed when you are in a leadership position.
I can’t really say with certainty that Mrs. Turkey was self-centered, but it seemed that way to me.
I know that when I am focused on Number One, I am scared, insecure and threatened by everyone. I fall into the trap of people pleasing. I am afraid to make decisions. I become frustrated, angry and find myself running around in tight circles that lead nowhere.
The cure? Get my eyes off myself and onto the Lord and the task He’s given me to do.
Leadership is more about serving others than about meeting your needs.
During our first years as missionaries, we were assigned to work under a man who was a lot like Mrs. Turkey. He micro-managed every decision and task.
He would call us together for a staff meeting, and for two hours we would discuss an issue or problem. At the end of that time, he would tell us he’d already solved it, and he would inform us of the decisions he’d made. It was all done. Why did he have the meeting? To make himself feel good.
He was suspicious, fearful, and a bully. Because of his insecurities, he focused on himself instead of others, and because of that, many of those under his authority left the mission field never to return. (VERSE)
5) Leadership is grasping this biblical principle: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you shall ask what you will and it will be done unto you.” John 15:7
Jesus’ words echo down the millennia to my heart. As a leader, we must abide in Christ and allow His Words to dwell in our hearts and minds. With Jesus Christ as your center and His Word as your guide, you can rest and be happy.
You will be fun to be with. You will be relaxed in your role of leadership, and confident that God will see you through.
The opposite? You might become like Mrs. Turkey who tried to control her “chicks”, who over-protected them and micro-managed them.
Breathe deeply. Soak in His love. Find peace in Him.
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