He sat there quietly eating his dinner to-go. An established scholar unassuming with his boxed meal.
To his right sat his wife. To his left, his son.
All around them we gathered, pastors and would-be scholars.
As the dinner concluded, he turned to his notes and began to present the research from his most recent book.
We were all leaning in, eager to learn, grateful for the invitation to sit so closely with a well-known scholar.
As he presented his findings, two moments struck me.
At one point, his wife offered a word of clarification. She saw that some statement was not sufficiently clear. She added a helpful corrective. The scholar listened and nodded appreciatively.
At another point, some illustration from the research intersected with his son’s world, so he turned and warmly addressed his comments to him.
The scholar had left room for others at the head table.
Of course, we were there to discuss the extent and trajectory of early church orthodoxy, but I took a lesson in leadership. This scholar, to whom so many look and for whom we had gathered, left room at the top.
Room at the top.
Learned. Internationally known. But there were was room for his family at the head of the table with him. There was room for comment and interaction. There was room for real relationship and familial deference.
I left the lecture contemplating that picture.
In my leadership, in my role as a pastor, a father, a husband… do I leave room at the top? Can others flourish around me? Can others take the mic or enter their edits? Or, do I dominate and elbow out? Do I make my children compete with my personality/job/priorities? Do I view leadership as a zero sum game?
I do not know where I rank in all these categories, but I will aspire to that picture I saw: family and friends near, dialogue, mutual flourishing…room at the top.