7 Lessons Crucial To Leadership: # 1 Be A Surgeon, Not A Swordsman

All, Business, Living Adventures, Preferred Movement, Risk Management     by Dan Muhlenkamp

A surgeon and swordsman both use sharp tools to cut human flesh, but the similarities pretty much end there.  A surgeon uses a precise instrument to make the smallest incision possible in hopes of saving, or drastically improving a life.  A swordsman uses a macabe blade to cause horrendous wounds he hopes will kill, or completely debilitate a life.

You probably think you will never be either of these, but the truth is we are all at different times both of these.  You see, our words can be healing balms, and they can be sharp knives (scalpels or swords).  But our words are not normal balms or knives.  Once we let a word go it can never be drawn back in and we lose all control over its outcome. Whether our words are healing balms, or sharp knives, we can only choose them wisely and deploy them carefully, but once they are out, they are out.

All too often we draw out powerful words and throw them around with loud voices and strong emotions. We are like crazed Vikings in the heat of battle, drunk on adrenaline swinging our swords wildly at everyone around us. Our words tear and cut and kill and mame everyone.  And what is really sad is that the people most likely wounded are those closest to us – those we love and who love us.

Spreading a healing balm with the same drunken wildness is better than a sword, but still pretty ugly.  Imagine going into a room and throwing handfuls of Neosporin around.  Even if you mean to help people, most wouldn’t appreciate it much and you will likely waste a lot of valuable balm.  Worse yet, the next time someone is in pain, they likely won’t come to you for some Neosporin.

Do I really need to explain the surgeon’s difference?  His tool is sharper, but much smaller.  He is not allowed to perform surgery if he is emotionally upset, and certainly not when drunk on either wine or adrenaline.  He has thought about exacly what he is doing and is careful where he cuts, and how deep.  When he finished cutting, he is careful to do all he can to heal the wound.

So here is my advice regarding your words.  I don’t always follow these tips, I am human.  But I am sure, the more you follow them, the better off you and those you love will be.

  1. We all grab the weapon or tools we are familiar with, so practice using balms and scalpels, leave the swords in their sheaths.  When we are in idle conversation, or reading, or listening to music or watching a movie…or praying.  Fill yourself with words of kindness, love and peace.  No one needs to use, or listen to, cuss words, ugly stories, angry songs or disrespectful banter.  Get it out of your vocabulary by not letting it into your mind and don’t put it in other’s vocabulary by speaking it.
  2. Do you best to never speak when you are angry.  Simply be quiet, or exit the situation by saying something like, “I have to think about that for a while.”  “Speak when you are angry, and you will give the greatest speech you’ll ever regret.” – Probably Groucho Marx but it’s debateable.
  3. When you must have a cutting conversation with someone, be like a surgeon.  Get the person’s consent.  Explain why you are speaking to them and how you want to do good.  Choose your words carefully and make the smallest incision you can.  Then hang around to help heal the wound, even when they complain about the pain.
  4. And lastly, when other’s swords a flaling around, the strongest person in the room isn’t the one whose sword cuts deepest or last.  The strongest person can absorb the blows and take the wounds. Without an adversary, the swordsman will tire and the battle will end, and others will be wounded less (no one is left unharmed), and perhaps the angry swordsman will learn a better way.

I’m guessing most of the people who know me are wishing I would take my own advice.  I’m trying, I promise.  In the mean time, if I wait till I’ve perfected myself to pass on the lessons I’ve learned, my body will be in the grave and spiritual soulmates will have already been transformed by Jesus.

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