“What would happen if the autism gene was eliminated from the gene pool?
You would have a bunch of people standing around in a cave, chatting and socializing and not getting anything done.”
“In an ideal world the scientist should find a method to prevent the most severe forms of autism but allow the milder forms to survive. After all, the really social people did not invent the first stone spear. It was probably invented by an Aspie who chipped away at rocks while the other people socialized around the campfire. Without autism traits we might still be living in caves.”
― Temple Grandin,
Sometimes it seems like an oxymoron to be a leader and autistic.
Why? Well, for one thing we tend to be more focused on ourselves than others. The other is that we tend to be focused on things rather than people. Of course, you can be a leader and also have something Aspergers, but it’s a challenge. I have to constantly learn that somethings have to be done by others, that I can’t just do something. It’s also a challenge in figuring out how to get people to do what you would like them to do. So much of leadership is relational, learning people’s strong suites and weak points, things I don’t see at all.
(It’s interesting to see the similarities between leadership and romantic relationships, but that’s for another blog post.)
About a year and a half ago, I was asked to head the new church team for the Upper Midwest Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). I don’t think it’s been a failure, but it has been challenge. I can get jazzed about the theory of church planting, but so much of this work is about relational things like casting a vision, relating to the church planter and persuading a skeptical public of the value of planting new churches. My brain is wired to see this and all challenges as problems that can be solved rationally. But it’s taken me 40 years to discover that people are far from rational.
But while I suck at being inspirational, I am a doer. In my prior position as Associate Pastor, I threw myself into getting mission opportunities set up and creating graphics for the church website. Just like Grandin’s quote, I was busy making spears or the wheel or whatever while everyone else was chatting.
The thing is, being a doer and not (at least naturally) a leader is difficult for a pastor because they are supposed to be relational and inspirational leaders. Yes, we can talk til the cows come home about how pastors are servants, and they are. But they also have to be leaders, and to be a good leader one has to connect with the people around them.
As I continue my journey as a pastor, it will be interesting to see how I am able to learn how to be a leader. Life will be interesting.
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