Perhaps you have had a leader challenge you to “stay in your lane.” Whether your mind conjured up a football analogy or lanes on an interstate, you got the message. Quit trying to lead everyone else’s area, and focus on yours. And perhaps you heard a different message in a different meeting when the leader told the team, “Everyone must help shoulder this. We all must own this.”
So which one is it? Do I stay in my lane or do I own the whole? And if you are a leader, you may have wondered, Which message do I deliver?
When the apostle Paul challenged believers in Galatia to “carry one another’s burdens” (6:2), he also challenged each person to “carry his own load (6:5).” Some translations use “burden” in both verses, but Paul used two different Greek words. In other words, some things each of us must own for ourselves, and some burdens should be jointly shouldered by the community of believers surrounding us. Paul was writing to Galatian churches to clarify and defend the gospel against legalism, not writing to a leadership team, but here are some general applications from the passage.
Stay in your lane (carry your own load)
You must own your area, your realm of responsibility. If you are a leader, you have been given responsibility for a group of people, and no one should outpace you in passion or concern for the area you steward. If you are overly concerned with everyone else’s position, you may jeopardize playing yours well. You may end up focusing attention on the leadership specks in other people’s eyes while neglecting the plank in yours.
Staying in your lane does not mean you do not care for the whole. You should care for the whole by stewarding your part well. If you don’t carry your load, if you are overly dependent on others to the point that they do your work for you, you are not serving the whole well.
Suggestion for new leaders: If you want to speak into the whole, first steward “your lane” exceedingly well. Then you will be invited to do so.
Own the whole (carry each other’s burdens)
A community of faith is to “carry one another burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Christ bore in His body the burden and the curse of our sin, so we are to bear one another’s burdens. We must care for those around us. We must shoulder their burdens with them. We must rejoice when they rejoice and weep when they weep.
Every ministry or organization has initiatives or goals that transcend areas or departments. They are so big, so burdensome, that everyone is required. Without the whole team pulling together in the same direction around what is declared as most important, these are destined to be misses. A great team pulls together in the same direction and shoulders these initiatives together.
A team member not owning the whole is like the high school basketball player who checks the stat sheet immediately after a loss, more concerned with how he will look in the paper than how his team played as a whole and how they are feeling in the locker-room. Who really wants that guy on the team?
So do I challenge my team members to “stay in your lane or own the whole”? Both. A wise leader offers clarity as to what initiatives or plans are to be shouldered by all and what responsibilities are to be stewarded by one particular area.
Eric Geiger is a Vice President at Lifeway, leading the Resources Division. He has authored several books including most recently: Designed to Lead.