To See and Be Seen! Leading the SpringHill Way – Part 9

Our 2013 Michigan Medical team in staff training. Our 2013 Michigan Medical team in staff training.

When I began my career, I worked for a company that preached and expected its leaders to “manage by walking around” or “MBWA” as we called it. As a result, during my 10 years with the company I literally wore out the soles of my shoes before I even scuffed the uppers. This is no exaggeration – I must have resoled a half-dozen pairs of shoes in my tenure there.

Also during this same period, my wife Denise and I were volunteer Young Life leaders. We learned that the one of the most important elements of relational ministry was “to see and be seen”. In other words we were to go to where high school students hung out, whether it was school, ball games or other local gathering spots. It was another version of MBWA.

Thus the MBWA and “to see and be seen” approach to leadership has so deeply influenced my leadership style that it’ now a deeply held value of mine. You see, for me, I must lead through being present in the lives and the work of those I’m called to serve.

However when I first arrived at SpringHill, because our camps are so large and spread out, our staff developed a habit of driving around camp. Though driving saved our staff a few minutes of time, it also meant that they’d miss the sounds, sights and smells of camp, and more importantly, interacting with campers and staff. You see, driving in this context isn’t the same as “seeing and being seen”, and it certainly doesn’t qualify as “walking around.”

So when I began my habit of walking around camp, people wondered how I had time “to take a walk”. My response was always “how do you not have time to see, hear, experience camp and interact with our campers and staff in the intimate way? Being present is how we’re going to lead SpringHill. Any extra time it takes to walk will more than be made up by the fact we’ll lead better for it.”

For another leader’s perspective  on “MBWA” and “to See and Be Seen” read Michigan Retreats Director, Eric Woods post “Trading up-front for out-there“.

This is a repost from a June 26,2013 post.


  • Neil Ebersoldt

    Mike, I have been sharing this points of leadership with our grandson, Brent Rolfe, Sherri’s son, who is a senior at CMU. I must have missed our deleted point 9 before I wrote it down. Would you please send # 9 again. Thanks and tell Denise we said hello. Neil

    On Fri, May 9, 2014 at 6:17 PM, Michael Perry

    • Michael Perry

      Hi Neil, I’ll email you #9. Thanks for sharing that with Brent. Hard to believe he’s a senior at CMU. Our kids (and grandkids) have grown up fast.

      I’ll say hi to Denise, do the same with Nancy.

  • Michael Perry

    Well Neil, I’ve figured it out. I didn’t have a #9, my most recent post #10 should have been number #9 so you haven’t missed a posted. The beauty of blogs is I can fix this by changing the title. Thanks for keeping me straight.

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