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Publisher / Editor:
Paul Hayden

Gleaming and Glistening Mutuality

November 29, 2021

If there is one thing that defines authentic leadership, it's mutuality. Mutuality is the sharing of a feeling, action, or relationship between two or more parties. Authentic leadership creates an environment for win-win solutions, when and where possible. Authentic leadership is lifting people and organizations as compared to tearing them down. 

Zig Ziglar said, “You can get everything you want if you help enough others to get what they want.” Leadership is less “me” and more “we.” Authentic leadership is more being 'the guide by their side' than the ever-popular, media-driven ‘sage on the stage.’

Allow me to illustrate mutuality in this true-life story that was a life-changer for two famous men in John Maxwell's book, "The Power of Partnership in the Church." The article is entitled, "What if You Held the Record?" Here's their story.

“If you knew anything about the history of the Olympics, you probably know the name, Bob Richards. He is the only man to win gold medals in the pole vault in two different Olympics Games. And his feat is a testament to the fact that victories are the result of both hard work and beneficial relationships.

Years ago, when Bob was trying to break the record for the pole vault held by Cornelius "Dutch" Warmerdam, he kept falling short, no matter what method he attempted. It frustrated him. He knew he had the potential to be the best in the world at his sport, but he discovered that there weren't many people who could help him improve. Of course, he was already one of the best in the world, but no matter which coach he talked to, he couldn't find any new insight to help him. 

As he wracked his brain, he could think of only one person who had the knowledge to help him – Dutch Warmerdam himself! But how could he ask Dutch to help him break his record? It seemed so far-fetched, but he could think of no other option, not if he would improve on his best vault.

Finally, he called Dutch. He decided to be polite but bold. "Dutch, can you help me?" Bob asked. "I seem to have leveled off. I can't jump any higher." There was no hesitation. "Sure, Bob," Dutch answered. "Come on up to visit me, and I'll give you all I've got." Bob was dumbfounded. Here was the greatest pole vaulter in the world – the master – and he was willing to help Bob try to break his world record.

Bob spent three days with Dutch, and, true to his word, the world record holder gave him everything he had. He made corrections to Bob's technique and pointed out things to help him improve. He became Bob's encourager, motivator, and coach. As a result, Bob added an incredible eight inches to his best vault. In the process, he won a gold medal – and set a new world record.

What kind of person is willing to help another to eclipse his accomplishments? A partner. Partners put the other person’s success ahead of their own.”

Talk about a win-win. That's leadership. My gift is for your benefit and my benefit. Can you imagine this happening in our current us/them, win/lose, right/wrong, "Me Tarzan/You Jane," or "Me Jane/You Tarzan," or "Us Tarzan/Them Jane” world? Mutuality is not adversarial. Mature leaders know that their achievement does not require someone else's failure. Remember, a chip on the shoulder usually requires wood higher up.

We can glean some principles, values, and lessons from Bob Richards and Dutch Warmerdam mutuality experience. If applied, these lessons can take us from small to tall and to heaps of blessings to others and ourselves. 

First, Bob understood that he was not smart enough to improve alone, and he was not dumb enough to try to improve alone. You can be better than others without coaching, but you will never be your best without coaching. That’s mutuality.

Second, notice how Bob embraced the need for mutuality. He had a reality and humility check. He had the integrity and honesty to assess where he was and where he would end up going without mutuality. The problem with self-reliance is that it gains momentum as it goes along. Many people refuse to have a reality check about narcissism until it’s too late. Their autobiography is entitled, The Life I Meant to Live

Third, Bob acknowledged the reality, but he could see the remedy. Bob took the risk of his life and asked someone better than him for help. He dared to access a secure asset. Bob understood winners focus on winning, and losers focus on winners. Bob chose to focus on winning, not his competitor. Hint: Don’t be around people who think your growth is a competition. If we can’t be happy for one another, we won’t have mutuality.

Fourth, let’s consider Dutch. Because Dutch was secure in his soul, he was not threatened by another competitor asking him for help. He had humility which is a path to greatness. When you give what you have away, life works. When you hoard what you have, life tends to crumble. Your giftedness is for others' benefit.

Lastly, remember, you can’t be successful until you find a successor. Dutch, the competitor, became a mentor and coach. The sage on the stage became the guide by their side. A mentor’s philosophy is, “Lead not from the head, so you are over them. Lead not from the feet so that you are under them. Lead from the heart so that you are beside them.” When a mentor’s hands no longer work, the works of their hand will continue to keep on working. 

One final question, "What if you held the record?" 

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Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com