In Genesis 22, Abraham takes his son Isaac to be sacrificed. At the last moment, God stays his hand. In return for this selfless act of faith, God blesses Abraham, telling him in Genesis 22:17, "I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore" (NIV).
Image CC BY 2.0 Mike McCune
Rabbi Daniel Lapin asks, why stars and sand? Did you ever stop to think about just how different they are? Sure, they're both incredibly numerous, but their natures are quite distinct.
Grains of sand, taken by themselves, aren't really good for much, are they? A grain of sand can't do much but annoy the heck out of you if it gets in your sandal.
But sand, lots of it, grain upon grain taken together, can build levees, dams, and other structures capable of holding back the very seas. Sand can be built into things, shaped, when utilized as en mass rather than as individual grains.
A single star gives off light. Each star is beautiful in its own way and contributes to the night sky of its own light, its own character. Individual stars can be picked out and identified quite readily by even amateur astronomers or children based on the constellations they form.
God values us all, not only as individuals (stars), each beautiful and magical and contributing to the wonder of creation in our own way, but as groups (sand) as well. We have a dual nature, as individual contributors and as members of a whole whose force is greater than the sum of its parts.
Is it possible for us as leaders to see our employees, our team members, not only as unique, individual contributors but also as members of a team where their membership is not irreplaceable? Where the force being applied by the team as a whole, by the organization as a whole will not be diminished by the loss of one or two members, who can be replaced by fresh grains of sand? Yet whose contributors nonetheless are to be valued as unique; celebrated for the rock stars they are?
Can you reconcile these two seemingly conflicting thoughts about your team members?