No matter how many times they explained it, it still just looked silly to me. Exasperated, they would finally give up, roll their eyes, and their faces would tell me that they were disgusted with what they perceived to be my inability to grasp the necessity, importance, and even dignity of what they were doing.
Me? I just thought it looked goofy.
Back and forth they’d walk, bodies rigid, heads barely turning or tilting, regardless of what was happening around them. It was a combination of two different walks: the graduation walk and the bride-walking-down-the-aisle walk. Slow. Deliberate. Hint of a rising-up in each step. Eyes moving back and forth, taking in the scene; but heads not daring to move.
As far as I could tell, the whole ordeal had its genesis in what was directly above those individuals. The first time I remember seeing this scenario go down, it was a hymnal that was perched directly above the individuals. (For those of you who didn’t grow up in the Sunday School ‘hood, that’s a hardback book, usually about an inch or two thick, within which one could find the lyrics and music for any number of sacred and/or religious hymns. It was the instrument of choice for many a music minister/leader/pastor/person at the end of the service.
Turn in your hymnals to hymn number 287, they’d say. Hymn 2-8-7. I Come to The Garden Alone. Hymn 2-8-7. As we sing together, really think about the words and let them move you. Is there sin in your life? Come down to the front in front of everyone and confess it to your pastor.
But not now — that wasn’t the hymnal’s present purpose. These people were walking back and forth down a hallway with hymnals on their heads.
Learning hymns by way of osmosis? I asked, lightheartedly.
Looks of scorn directed at me.
Um, you ran out of space in your backpacks and needed some way to carry the hymnals? I queried, my curiosity and smartassity now getting the best of me.
No, came the annoyed answer. It’s to help us continue to have perfect posture.
I continued looking at them for a moment. Blink. Blink again.
Why do you need to have perfect posture so badly that you’ll walk around with hymnals on your heads? I asked. It seemed a fair question to me.
So we don’t look silly like all those other kids our age who sit slouched in front of their TVs and have bad posture. When they stand up and walk around, they wouldn’t be able to keep this hymnal from falling off their heads. They said this with an air of conviction, satisfaction, and more than a hint of arrogance. It was the sort of tone you hear from a lawyer who feels he or she has just made a wonderful point.
So let me get this straight, I said. You’re telling me that the reason you’re walking down the hallways of our school with hymnals on your heads is so you won’t look weird when you walk down the hallways of our school?
I paused, waiting for it to click with them.
I sighed, probably not hiding my smirk very well, shook my head, and walked my poorly-postured self down the hallway, ashamed that I was likely unable to navigate that hallway with a hymnal on my head. (sarcasm included free of charge)
That word — posture — has a certain connotation for me because of that context, as silly as that is. Words get part of their meaning from their objective definition and part of their meaning from how they’re employed in context. So for me, since then, whenever someone said to Watch your posture or something like that, I would cringe and chuckle at the same time, and half expect them to hand me a hymnal.
In some ways though, posture is a big deal. I’m not talking body language here. As an aside, body language is like words in some ways. We know some things about what certain things tend to mean, but a huge chunk of their meaning is derived from the person exhibiting the body language. One person leaning back in their chair can mean something entirely different from someone else leaning back in their chair. But that’s another post for another day.
People have a certain posture in a sense, and I’m not referring to the physical sense. This has nothing to do with hymnals. People — leaders — are uniquely and individually inclined toward different postures and stances.
That being said, there are some general postures that seem more likely to produce leadership success. Leaders lean, push, pull, strain, stretch, nudge, brace themselves against the storm, and so on. There’s not a lot of the “wait and see” posture. That posture seems to be more akin to crossing our fingers and hoping life, karma, and the business world success fairy collectively decide to sprinkle prosperity pixie dust all over us, resulting in everything being rainbows and unicorns. We wait to see what’s going to happen to us instead of making stuff happen.
That’s not to say a leader always needs to be pushing forward forward forward. Progress isn’t always straight ahead. You know, that whole bull in a china shop thing.
Instead, look around. Look for opportunities to lean in, lean forward, move, create, initiate, innovate, and serve by leading.