How The Most Talented Person In Your Organization Can Be Its Downfall

The biggest strength and biggest weakness of an Islamic organization is usually the same thing – a talented personality.

This comes in many different shapes and sizes. It’s the person who…

…opens the masjid every day.

…brings snacks to Sunday School.

…fixes the microphone for the khutbah every Friday.

…updates the prayer times on the masjid website.

…puts the announcements on the screen in the lobby.

…is the ‘face of the franchise’ in making dawah.

If you do something for so long, so well, that no one else has to worry about it, then the organization will organize around you.

But wait, how is that a bad thing? 

We dream of having individuals so capable that we can assign them a task and then forget about it. There’s a huge relief in knowing someone capable and dependable is taking care of it.

It’s only a bad thing if we are concerned about the long term health of our organizations.

Here’s how it becomes a vulnerability. When we do something well for a long time, we become indispensable.  No one else worries about it. Sometimes we do things for so long, what we contribute to the organization becomes habitual – i.e. we don’t even consciously notice what we’re doing sometimes.

That also means that if something happens to that person, no one knows what holes will need to be filled.

We throw around words like sadaqah jariyah when fundraising for our masjid construction projects. Donate that extra thousand even if you can’t afford it because you will have a reward that lasts forever. The problem is, we don’t build our human infrastructure with the same sustainability requirements as the concrete slabs and wooden frames.

Identify the pressures, responsibilities, and tasks that you do. Then find a way to share the responsibilities, the decision making, and truly involve others.

When someone is in charge of something, we organize around that person instead of organizing around their role. We might not give the Friday khutbah a second thought because the same person has been in charge of organizing it for a long time. But what if that person is not actually suited for that job? What if they don’t know how to tell a good khateeb from a bad khateeb? In that case, this person becomes a lid on the growth of the organization.

The key then, is to identify the roles. It means identifying the responsibilities, knowledge, and decision making that is required of each role – and truly involve others. Make yourself replaceable.

This is true whether you are at a lower rung, or you are the face of the organization. The personalities who left the greatest legacies in dawah are those who had the ability to multiply. An organization cannot sustain on the basis of one person no matter how talented that one person is.

This doesn’t mean that you stop doing what you’re doing. Not at all. But you cannot lead as if you will be there forever.

When someone refuses to lead and instead clings to their position, this is actually a sign of weakness. What is required is a growth mentality. It means to continue doing the job well, but also looking at how to mentor and groom others. The paradox is, as you do that, you yourself move higher up and become that much more valuable.

 

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