Loaves And Fishes

During the Global Leadership Summit this past week, there was an interview with Dallas Jenkins, the creator and director of “The Chosen.” He made an interesting observation about the story in the Bible of the feeding of the 5,000. 

In the story, Jesus is teaching a large gathering of people in a remote place. When evening comes, his disciples suggest sending the people away so they can get food. Jesus says they should give them something to eat, an impossible task by the way. They point this out to Jesus, and he responds by asking what they have. Five loaves and two fish was what they came up with. Jesus then blesses the food, and they start passing it out, and everyone eats all they want. Over 5,000 men plus women and children were fed. 

Dallas was talking about the enormous task of getting a series about the life of Jesus off the ground. Like so many leaders, he was bearing the weight of responsibility for the result without acknowledging his lack of control over it. The Bible story reminded him of that. “My job is not to feed the five thousand,” said Jenkins, “It’s my job to bring the loaves and fishes.” 

It is a very difficult thing to be responsible for something but not in control of it. Yet, that is what leaders do. We are held responsible for outcomes in situations where we cannot control all the factors. Influence maybe, control, never. How then are we supposed to lead if we can’t control the results? We bring the loaves and fishes.

When you cannot control the outcome because you cannot control all the variables, your best bet is to work on creating an environment that will have the best chance of leading to the desired outcome. Think of it as raw materials. Our responsibility as leaders is to provide the necessary resources—the loaves and fishes—to give our team the best opportunity for success.

We start with a clear vision. “Let’s feed these people.” Knowing where we are going is key to having the best chance of getting there. Our vision should be inspiring and strategically achievable. Inspiring is rarely easy, and we sometimes can’t see how to achieve something because we don’t know where to look. Leadership is helping the team get to a high point so they can see the landscape.

We provide opportunities for growth and discovery. “What do you have?” Sometimes asking questions is better than giving directions. If we make all the decisions and provide all the plans, there is no opportunity for growth. A long time ago, I realized that if I drove somewhere, I could always find my way back there again. However, if someone else drove, I had no idea how to get there the next time.

Finally, we trust. We are reliant on others whether we have the humility to admit it or not. Once we acknowledge our dependence on the team, we can begin to invest in them as if we were investing in ourselves, because we are. Everything we do to improve the team improves the chance of getting the results we are responsible for. 

Personally, it took almost losing everything to bring me to a place where I acknowledged that I was not in control of anything. That was what Jesus’ disciples were learning too. They had to be ready and available. They had to bring what they had, even though it was obviously not enough. Then they had to trust. At my lowest point, through failure not success, I finally learned that I had to trust God for the results. 

Leaders are not gods. We don’t have control of anything but our actions and reactions (and some haven’t mastered that). If we can manage to create an environment where people know where they are going, are given the tools and opportunities, and are trusted and trust each other, we may be able to pull off a miracle. I want to be a leader who brings the loaves and fishes and then watches in awe as we feed a crowd. That’s influence; that’s leadership; that’s the Bison Way.