You are leading in a time when tension, complexity, and uncertainty seem to lead the way.
It’s difficult to get in front and lead when circumstances and culture change so rapidly. Yet, leadership is our responsibility, and now more than ever.
- Racial injustice has reached a tipping point.
- COVID-19 continues to increase our economic challenges.
- Re-opening the doors to churches continues to bring more questions than answers.
Plus, the problems you faced before more recent events and cultural impacts.
With all this, as leaders, it’s up to us to bring hope, seize opportunities, and point the way.
No small task, right?
The good news is that you are not expected to lead perfectly, but only to do your best to make progress in the right direction.
Take the next right step by doing the next right thing.
It’s easier to write that in a blog post than actually do it, I know, I lead in a church too.
Leadership requires a great deal of thought, prayer, and work.
But every new day, I’m ready to see what good I can do and what progress I can make. I’ll be candid with you, there are days when it seems like I’ve taken two steps back, (or in fact have,), but the next day I resolve once again to move forward.
That’s my encouragement to you.
No matter how frustrated or discouraged, you may get, start fresh again the next day, striving to know the next best step you can take.
Even just a little.
Any progress is good. (Repeat that to yourself many times.)
Let me try to make this practical.
I believe deeply in a strategy to make progress toward your vision, and that you need to stick to that strategy.
However, there are rare times when circumstances seem to say that leading according to artful nuance, the complexity of culture, and the speed of change takes priority over the strategy.
3 principles that will help you lead more effectively over the next few months:
1) Place values over pressure.
It’s impossible to meet every need and solve every problem. In fact, if you try, you will likely not make a lasting difference with anything.
There are enough things that we cannot and should not ignore, like those I listed at the beginning of the post—realities such as COVID, racial injustice, economic uncertainty, and obviously more.
But within this growing list of significant issues, there are still many decisions about what you can do to make a difference.
Now is the time to make sure you and your team have a deep connection to your spiritual leadership-based core values so that you can respond correctly to external pressures.
Late last fall, a group of staff on the 12Stone team began work on our values. Not to write new ones, but to bring fresh language and clarity to the values that mean so much to us.
This has become an interesting time to engage in such a project. I can sense how internal and external pressures can push on, ironically, the very process of a fresh touch to wording.
The practical point is this.
Take some time with your team and talk about your values.
Get honest about the pressures you are facing. Literally, list them out. Talk about what you want to do, what you can do, and the ever-important, what you actually will do. Throughout that conversation, ask if your actions will align with your values.
2) Embrace adaptation over collaboration.
I wouldn’t normally put adaptation and collaboration even in mild tension with each other. I still think that adaptation is the result of strong collaboration; however, this unprecedented season calls for it.
Let me explain why.
It’s the only way to keep up with the speed of change.
I will always believe in collaboration and note that I didn’t say abandon it. It’s just for this intense season that sometimes adaptation may need to override collaboration.
If we take the time you and I would like for collaboration, we will likely miss the window for change and fall behind the curve. Your leadership may be inadvertently rendered ineffective because you gave too much time to assessment rather than moving to action.
Talk? Of course. Pray and get wise counsel from the team. But don’t get stuck in conversation that doesn’t go anywhere. This complex season requires adapting to change at high speed.
Adapt to what I’m calling a “moving strategy.” You know from the beginning of this post that I’m a die-hard believer in a strong strategy and sticking to it. But your strategy must serve you, not you serve your strategy.
Keep your strategy flexible. If it remains value-based and vision-driven, that will keep you on course but allow you to move in the moment as needed.
3) Wrestle the tension between the speed of life and the speed of love.
Where the first two points are more organizationally driven, this point asks you also to consider when you need to slow down to connect personally regardless of the pressures, tensions, and complexities you are facing.
Deeper, honest, more unified, and heart-felt relationships are a significant part of the solution to many of the problems we face.
If you were to draw a diagonal line with an arrow up and toward the right, you would label it “the speed of life.” Then draw a second line with an arrow downward, crossing the first line, and label it “the speed of love.”
The speed of life says do as much as you can, as fast as you can, with the calling and resources God has given you. The speed of love calibrates the speed of life, saying slow down enough to care for, nurture, and enjoy the relationships closest to you and those God calls you to.
They intersect in a different place for every person and for every organization. According to the needs of your relationships, the line for the speed of love can move either higher or lower along the line of the speed of life.
Accomplish all you can, but never sacrifice relationships.
This is always a tension for passionate leaders called to a purpose. But in community, we can remind each other of what is truly important even when leading is more difficult than ever before.
- Remain values-driven
- Adapt quickly
- Never lose sight of the speed of love.