The Day I Quit Following a Leader

Here's the thing. I am not big on first impressions. I use to be; however, I've met and spoken with people who apparently weren't impressed with their first meeting with ME. Yes, I just said that. I can't tell you how many times I've been floored by people (my jaw dropping to the floor kinda floored) when they told me how they were "turned off" or sometimes "offended" by their first interaction with me. Really? Of course, these stories and testimonials were told to me much later after I had become good friends with them. Some of them to this day are my best of friends. All of this to say, I have learned to give people more than just my first meeting with them before I start to form any sort of opinion about them.

<< Inserting story and RANT here>>

The only exception to this was a few months ago when I had the opportunity to meet with a very well known speaker (who shall remain nameless) for a few moments (who counts it his calling to develop leaders by the way) who I wasn't so impressed with. Here's why. I was chit-chatting with him for a brief moment (literally) about leadership and asked him if I could ask him a few questions sometime (by email - at his convenience) when his assistant (who shall also remain nameless) jumps in front of him like I was going to attack him or something and began to explain to me how "busy" he was traveling, speaking, meeting with other leaders and that I would have to send an email to her and "if he felt led to answer the questions" and "got to it" then he would likely respond. Maybe. What the crap?

<< Inserting open letter to Mr. Leader here>>

Dear Mr. Leader

I'm not big on first impressions but I'm writing you today to tell you how unimpressed I was with my first meeting with you. First of all, I was speaking with you (personally, face-to-face) for a brief moment about leadership. I was not speaking with your assistant. Why did she feel the need to jump in front of you like I was going to attack you or something? You could have addressed me yourself. Secondly, I realize you are such a "busy guy" that I offered to email my questions to you and have you respond at your convenience. I'm sorry, I guess I thought that if you are truly in the business of developing leaders that you would take time for me... a leader. How wrong of me to assume such. I also must apologize for my wrong thinking about how you should have handled that conversation. I thought....hmm... If I were in his shoes I would have probably responded like this...

"Sir, I would love to look over your questions that you have about leadership. Would you send them to my assistant here? As I have time I would be willing to answer your questions and get them back to you. Just understand that I have a pretty tight schedule and it may be a little while before hearing back from me."

Instead, you allowed your assistant to respond to me, did not interject when she said "if you felt led to answer them" (what?) and dismissed me as if I weren't worth your time.

I was subscribed to every email list and mailing list your little organization had. I read your emails, benefited from them and shared them with others... but after that meeting with you I was very disturbed by your poor response and can't bring myself to read one email or mail piece now that I get from you. I've forgiven you for the harsh feelings I had towards you but I can't follow someone's leadership who professes that they are about developing leaders when you dismissed me the way you did. I hope you treat other leaders that you meet face to face far better than you treated me.

Terrace Crawford

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16 Responses to “The Day I Quit Following a Leader”

  1. # Blogger Paul Kendrick Sarcia

    I find that blog posts are more interesting when they are coupled with true stories.

    Great post, sir!  

  2. # Blogger MCC

    I'm in the middle of a similar situation. When you expect better out of people, or an hurts more when they don't deliver.

    Great post.  

  3. # Blogger Chuck Harrison

    I'm too busy of a leader to respond to your little blog, I'll see if my assistant Deb G will deem it important enough for comment.  

  4. # Anonymous Scott Fillmer

    I have found that when "leaders" come with handlers I need to just forget any kind of normal communication or interaction.

    I usually give these people a pass in my mind when I shouldn't. I met Franklin Graham as he was walking off a stage and he took time to at least shake my hand and seemed like he would talk to anyone that he could (hope it wasn't him).

    I also ran into several other leaders during the same day and ones that had "handlers" were totally inaccessible.

    Being a photographer some times, I can offer them something in return for a hand shake, a photo of themselves (which they always love, go figure).

    Anyway, love the post. Makes me wonder how accessible Jesus was during his ministry? More than his disciples liked I bet.  

  5. # Blogger Terrace Crawford

    @Paul - I concur.
    @MCC - Thanks.
    @Chuck - Thanks for always keeping things on the lighter side and keepin it real. By the way, Deb G will probably contact you from her incredible phone.

    (Important Note to Readers: Chuck is my new boss. :-P)


  6. # Blogger Terrace Crawford

    @Scott - Thanks Scott. I'm sure you have a few stories to share.


  7. # Anonymous jeff Slack

    Great post Terrace. I worked for one of these guys for six years in a big church. I happened to walk in with the leader from the parking lot and we passed a married couple with the husband in a wheel chair. The wife asked for a picture and the leader said "no" he didn't have time; I couldn't believe it. We then got on the elevator together and i punched 2 and the leader punched 3. He looked at me and asked why if I was going to the 2nd floor, why I didn't just take the stairs? I looked at him and said "Why didn't you take the stairs? I quit a couple months later.  

  8. # Blogger Steve

    Funny but I can't think of even one time Jesus blew off ANYONE who approached Him. In fact when the disciples started acting like 'handlers' to the little children Jesus gently told them that He could handle his own business and that He has very high regard for 'the little people'. Did he ever look at his watch while he talked to people? Did he ever look past the person He was talking to to make sure that the important dude didn't get out of the conference center before Jesus could hook up with Him?  

  9. # Blogger Cal Habig

    It may be a lousy example considering what happened to him later, but a personal interaction totally changed my opinion of Ted Haggard. I was never really impressed with him or his books, but I was in a conference where he was the speaker. was OK, but just OK. As I was leaving the room later I glanced to my right and Haggard was walking alone parallel to me. I engaged him in conversation and asked a couple of questions. He kept walking but came closer and we visited all the way down the hall & down an escalator. He was genuinely helpful in his answers and I felt that he valued my questions and that he listened to me before answering. I totally changed my opinion of him that day. I grieved when I saw what happened to him later. But that doesn't change when happened that day.  

  10. # Blogger Jason Curlee

    I'm so sorry my assistant jumped in our conversation that day...but in all fairness it is her job to protect me. Do you realize how many small time guys like you come up to me all the time at these events? As if I have time to answer every email...come on. What was your name obviously will never understand because if you were a true leader, Terry, your assistant would be talking to my assistant setting up our little email chat.

    Signed....Your True Leader

    Dang don't know how bad you make me want to know who you are talking about....aghhhhh  

  11. # Blogger Lanny Donoho

    Hi Terrace,
    Wandering thru the blog world and came across yours.
    i know you already have 10 comments about following the leader thing so if you can't post this cuz it will make it 11 and your title says 10, no problem. I was thinking about your post about what happened with the unnamed leader guy and his assistant. I know why you would feel the way you did at the time but i think i am gonna push back a little on your long term response. Granted I don't know exactly what happened when you met with this guy so it may have been worse than you painted it. But here are my thoughts. There is a possibility that this guy is a great guy and indeed has a lot to offer. I am surmising he does because you followed his stuff for a while. And it may just be possible that he has an assistant that is a little too overprotective, potentially because of a number of incidents that have happened before. I dont know. It also could be that when his assistant did this, he may have been caught off guard as much as you were and possibly just didn't know exactly what to do with her or with you at that time. I know a lot of leadership development people who are often introverts and would struggle with that scenario. We don't know if later, the leader guy sat down with his assistant and said hey, let's not have you do that like that anymore. Actually there is a lot we don't know. And again please excuse me if there was a lot more that you saw that you didn't talk about. I am just presenting some thoughts here.
    bottom line is this. I listen to a lot of people. And learn from a lot of them. I also know a lot about a lot of them and know that there are some characteristics they have that are admirable and some that are just the opposite. That doesn't keep me from listening to what they had to say. In other words, if this guy had a lot to offer in teaching you about leadership and you were growing from it, then i am not sure you should stop listening to good stuff that can help you just because you discovered something about him that you didn't like. The thing is, because it was you, you made it personal. If he is a jerk then he was a jerk when you were learning from him and you just didn't know it. If he isn't a jerk and he just makes mistakes like that now and then, then he is like everyone else we listen to and try to learn from. am not taking side here cuz i have no idea who it is you are talking about. I am not one of those guys and don't have an assistant trying to keep people from messing with my time and schedule. I have friends that do, and i know sometimes that just gets awkward. Nobody does it right all the time. I just don't want you to quit learning from someone who was leading you because one incident made you frustrated. It would be a shame if that happened to all of us. Have you written him and asked him about it?
    Again please note that i am not defending anyone here, nor am i putting you down for your feelings...just offering up another thought process.
    Lanny Donoho.  

  12. # Blogger Terrace Crawford

    THIS is why I love blogging so much. I sincerely appreciate each of your responses to this. I glean a lot from you, my readers. I'm thankful for your insights, your encouragement... and your push backs. :=)

    As I was reading back through these today one quote came to mind that I've heard before. "People may not remember what you said, or remember what you did, but they will remember how you made them feel." So true.


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