A LEADERSHIP CONFESSION Flight Is the Only Sane Response I don't pet stray dogs. I was bitten on the hand when I was six. I recall watching this immaculately coiffed collie bound out of a neighbor's yard to greet me. Its elegant, effortless movement mesmerized me. I put my hand out and, in a split second, went from being a dog lover to a child wounded in hand and heart. Since that day I've never fully trusted a foreign pooch. I am dog scarreda tad suspicious, but still open to man's best friend. The same is true in my approach to leaders known as pastors. I seldom pet a strange or even a well-known pastor. This came about after I was bitten at age twenty-six. As a lowly intern in a local church, I was earning a whopping fifty dollars a week for services that included leading a bible study, visiting church members, and walking the senior pastor's dog. I worked with the pastor for more than a year, and after I graduated from seminary, I came back as an assistant pastor. The senior pastor and I often played tennis together, and after one afternoon match we sat and talked about some of the things he wanted me to tackle in the coming year. He was my mentor, and I was his apt disciple. But it is also true that even though I had graduated from a fine seminary, I had the maturity of a street kid who had barely escaped death, jail, and excessive brain damage due to illicit drugs, and I had little idea how to function in the business of organized religion. The church was as foreign to me as the Junior League. I was grateful beyond words to have a job and a future with this man and his church. We left the tennis court at five o'clock and reconvened in an elders' meeting at six. An hour into the meeting, the senior pastor said to the leaders of our church, "I've come to the decision that it is best for Dan and the church to part ways." He offered no explanation. It was a clean, simple bite. Several of the elders felt the decision was abrupt and without due diligence, so I kept my job for another eighteen months. But the handwriting was on the wall. We leaders are dangerous. They can bite without provocation or at least without logic, and it is best to stay out of their way or you'll have to deal with the consequences. Leaders can seem capricious, aloof, narcissistic, and selfinterested. I wanted little to do with their world, so I left the complex world of church politics and the rough-and-tumble culture of leadership to work on my doctorate. But I didn't escape political turmoil. The academic realm involves politics similar to the clan warfare of early marauding tribes. It is all about loyaltyallegiance to the tartan, flag, and set of convictions that mark your community as unique. If you can wield a broadax or sword well enough and speak the language of the clan, your position is secure until death. This is called tenure. I entered the clan convinced that I would never again lead any group, community, church, school, or sports team as long as I lived. In fact, one of the great advantages of being an academic was that I was expected to complain about the administration, but I didn't have to take on any leadership responsibilities beyond teaching my classes. Umpteen years later, six colleagues and I wrestled with the decision of whether to apply for accreditation for the graduate school we had haphazardly started in Seattle. We were in a quandary: The school that had allowed us to be a branch campus no longer wanted us. If we chose to disband, we would face humiliation as well as the possibility of lawsuits stemming from the school's inability to fulfill its promise of offering degrees. We decided to apply for accreditation. The application required the signature of the school's presi denta position we had never discussedAllender, Dan B. is the author of 'Leading With a Limp Turning Your Struggles into Strengths', published 2006 under ISBN 9781578569502 and ISBN 1578569508.