by Frank Robbins
This article is a response to the EMQ article, “Manging the Super-Motivated Missionary,” by Meredith Long, January 1995.
This article is a response to the EMQ article, "Manging the Super-Motivated Missionary," by Meredith Long, January 1995.
Meredith Long deserves our thanks for dealing with an important topic and doing it well. His use of the term super-motivated, however, risks diverting us from the true problem. We need the most highly motivated people we can get; I believe it’s impossible to be too motivated. I would characterize most of the people among whom I work as super-motivated. What Long is talking about I would rather label the Lone Ranger.
In the extreme form, the Lone Ranger is totally focused on his or her personal goals at the expense of the immediate family and any larger body of which the person is a part, a form of selfishness that leads to disaster. But most people are between that and the other extreme of low initiative.
To avoid mediocrity we need a good number of those who are toward the Lone Ranger end of the scale. I would rather rein in someone who might get carried away with his ideas than work with someone who doesn’t have any.
Long’s description of the challenge to managing the Lone Ranger matches my experience. Perhaps the Lone Ranger causes burnout in others around as often as he or she experiences it. Single-minded focus rarely is the cause of burnout by itself.
It is well worth the effort to seek to integrate into the team people who tend toward the Lone Ranger end of the scale, and I appreciate Long’s suggestions for approaches to managing them. Probably a key to being successful is to assure that the Lone Ranger’s manager is flexible and does not manage “by the book.” It is important to protect the Lone Ranger from more than a minimum of administrative responsibility over others.
I agree that the manager should expect respect for the role of management, but particularly with the Lone Ranger that respect has to be earned. To earn it, the manager must listen until he not only understands the Lone Ranger’s personal mission, but also is perceived by him as understanding it. The manager must also find acceptable ways to support the Lone Ranger in achieving it. Only then can he expect to successfully confront him, or reshape his personal mission.
In my experience, the required decisive action toward resignation is probably the weakest point in mission management. It would save a lot of heartache and damage on both sides if this were not so. To help a Lone Ranger out of an association that won’t work, and perhaps into a relationship that will, is surely right.
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