Leadership is stressful even in the best of times. When you are leading through a time of crisis, sometimes the stress feels unmanageable. Learning to cope with stress is one of life’s most important lessons. Learning to lead in the midst of stress is a mark of a courageous leader. So, how are you coping with stress these days? How are you facing the difficulties of leading?

Acknowledgment or Denial?

My assumption is you are doing one of two things. You are either avoiding the stress by denying it or facing the stress by acknowledging it. You are either escaping it by numbing yourself or you are coping with it by finding a way through it. You are either blaming others for it or you are dealing with it responsibly, learning about yourself and learning how to lead in the midst of it.

Feeding the 5000

One of the most popular stories in the bible gives us insight into coping with stress. It is the story of the feeding of the 5000. When we read the story from Mark’s perspective, we gain insight into coping with the difficulties that come with leadership.

The disciples have just returned from a mission trip, and they are wanting to tell Jesus about their experiences. But there are so many people coming and going that the disciples don’t have time for themselves. Not even time to eat. So, Jesus says to them, “Let’s go off to a place by ourselves. You can rest while you report on your mission encounter.”

They get in their boats to cross the Sea of Galilee to a place less populated, a deserted place. When the people see the disciples leaving, they run ahead to meet them at their destination. When Jesus and the disciples arrive, they are met with the crowd they were trying to leave on the other side of the lake.

The Response

Jesus, out of deep compassion, rearranges his plans and works with the people all day. But his followers are not as flexible or as generous. By late afternoon they are tired and irritable. They realize that the people are hungry and could soon get hostile if something isn’t done to help them. Out of concern for the people, the disciples want to send them away to get their own food and provisions. They pull Jesus aside, point out the difficulty, and suggest that he disperse the people quickly before things get out of hand. It seems logical based upon what they perceive. A problem situation, full of stress and perceived danger.

So, how does Jesus cope with the situation?

Jesus Faces the Situation

First, Jesus decides to face the situation openly. He chooses not to escape or to avoid by rationalizing the situation. When the disciples want to send people away, Jesus responds out of integrity and compassion. He does not see people as a nuisance, so the situation becomes an opportunity to be who he was created to be.

Jesus Surveys his Resoures 

Second, Jesus surveys his resources. He chooses to find out what he has in hand to meet the need of the situation. Although it is not much, it is what he has. In their hurry to escape the problem, by sending the people away, the disciples do not consider what they have going for them. Even though it is not much, they are amazed to discover that there is some food available in the group.

Jesus Uses Available Resources to Address the Need 

Third, Jesus takes the resources and begins the task of meeting the need of the situation. He chooses to do the best he can with what he has. What seems impossible to the disciples, as they look at the problem, becomes a possibility through the courage and decisiveness of Jesus. He is not immobilized by the need or the lack of resources. He knows that nothing can begin until the first step is taken. So, he acts on the basis of what he has. His action gathers strength and turns an unsolvable problem into a success.

Untapped Potential

Now, it is obvious that there is a radical difference between the way Jesus coped with the difficulty and the way you and I usually go about dealing with reality. But the difference is not so much about lack of capacity as it is unused potential.

When you are tired and irritable, you become short-sighted and reduce your field of vision. Too often, in the face of problems or in the midst of difficulties, you don’t always see the possibilities. Instead of utilizing what God has already placed in your midst, you seek a way out either by denying the difficulty or by avoiding the situation.

The reality is, there are always “five loaves and two fish” in every problem. And when you don’t see the possibilities or recognize the resources at hand, you waver, hesitate, and become immobilized. There is nothing that intensifies stress more than inactivity. The longer you standstill in the face of a problem, the more stress you create. On the other hand, the decision to act, no matter how useless it may seem, often breaks the spell and turns the tide. The ability to start acting, even when it seems small and insignificant is key in facing difficulties and solving the problem.

Problem Solving

Life is, and always will be, a process of problem-solving. Jesus came to terms with that fact. He seems to have laid aside all the fantasies of a place where there is no conflict or difficulty. He accepted the fact that such a place does not exist for us humans. This realistic outlook enabled him to focus all his energies on the real issues of life rather than trying to escape them by seeking “the way things used to be” or by longing for things to get back to “normal.”

Posture of Gratitude

How was Jesus able to cope? The secret is found in a posture of gratitude. In facing a hungry crowd when his followers were wringing their hands, Jesus calmly looked up to heaven and gave thanks to God. I don’t think this act pertained only to five loaves and two fish. It included not only that event, but life as it was given to Jesus day by day.

God is Good

Jesus learned the deepest secret there is to learn. The secret? God is good. And God, who gives us life, also loves us, is for us, and is working for our good. Out of that realization came the ability to receive the events of life with gratitude, not resentment. He learned to regard the events and encounters in his life as expressions of love rather than acts of hostility. He was able to see the events as God’s way of dealing positively with humanity.

It is amazing the difference such a posture of gratitude can make in the way we cope with difficulty. If we really begin to look at the things that happen to us as good gifts from God, even the problems take on a different form. Instead of seeing them as hopeless obstacles to our happiness, we come to see them as the challenges that give life its meaning and hope. Problems cease to be overwhelming when we see them as something to be received with gratitude.

Posture of Thanksgiving

The posture of thanksgiving opens our eyes to the resources that are present. Even though the resources might be hidden by the problem, our eyes are opened and we no longer say, “We don’t have enough” or “There is nothing here we can use.” No matter how deep the crisis, God has provided “five loaves and twelve fish” to meet the need. Gratitude opens our eyes to what we already have going for us.

Gratitude encourages us to begin with what we have and to expect more as we move forward. After all, what we have at the beginning has been given by a gracious God. Can’t we expect God to give even more to complete the task? This is what Jesus did. He began to act out in a profound sense of gratitude. His trust and action gathered up strength from earth and heaven until a multitude was fed.

Coping with Reality

So, how are you coping with stress these days? How are you facing the difficulties of leading? There are a thousand unhealthy ways of coping, like avoiding or escaping being two. 

But there is at least one healthy way of coping. It is the way Jesus modeled for us on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. There in the shadow of great difficulty, he faced the problem. He laid hold of the resources already present, and he began to act in terms of what he had.

The truth is you can do the same. It is possible for you to lead through the stress and difficulties you face today. It is as simple and profound as this: let Jesus show you God by letting him reconcile you to the fact that God, who gives life, is good. Let him teach you to receive all of life in gratitude. When this becomes not only your perspective but your way of living, the courage to cope will rise from the depths of your being. Your problems will become the shape of a challenge. Your difficulties will be seen as the bearers of hidden resources. And the crisis will become nothing more than the moment to begin.

Your Next Step

This week, try coping with your stress by giving God thanks for your anxiety. Ask God to open your eyes to the resources present in the situation. And then, by God’s grace, take your first step toward addressing the difficulty. Again, try coping with your stress by giving God thanks in the midst of what seems impossible to overcome. It was good enough for Jesus. Shouldn’t it be good enough for you?

Remember, who you are is how you lead! 

Leadership can be about doing the things that most other people don’t like doing. Confronting interpersonal conflict is one of those things. Whether it is called conflict resolution or conflict management you must address the tension head-on. When it comes to conflict, leadership is not easy. Here is another place I want to say, “Who you are is how you lead.”

Conflict and Disagreements

Abraham Lincoln once remarked that his father had taught him the value of hard work but had never succeeded in teaching him to enjoy it. I confess that I find myself with the same feeling when it comes to conflict and disagreements. To be honest, I like it best when people relate together in warm and harmonious ways. The psalmist says it best, “How good and pleasant it is when people live together in unity” (Psalm 133:1). Yet, after 47 years of ministry, I have come to the conclusion that such a harmonious state is not always possible or, at times, even desirable.

Barriers to Health

You and I have seen what happens when “being nice” becomes the mode of operation and “peace at any price” is sought out in the midst of conflict. Such actions do not lead to relational health. In fact, they inhibit any honest interaction in which real differences are shared and true fellowship is experienced. 

That is why I say I feel the way Lincoln felt about hard work. When it comes to conflict, I cannot say I “enjoy” it, but I do see its value. With that in mind, there are several insights that are necessary for courageous and effective leadership.

Conflict is Inevitable

First, conflict is inevitable. It is part of who we are as human beings, and it happens in every ongoing relationship. Because it is a part of who we are, it is an opportunity for growth and understanding, as well as change and improvement. It is not something to be resolved as much as something to be transformed. 

Think of it this way, we are created differently. You and I have different strengths, talents, and abilities. If we love and respect one another, there will be times we find ourselves in disagreement with one another. 

Diversity and Unity

In fact, if we take seriously the doctrine of the Trinity, there is individuality and diversity within the nature of God. There is a dynamic interaction between the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is not surprising that a world created in the image of this kind of deity would be full of diversity. 

You and I do not think, feel, or act in the same way. This means there will be conflict between us when our differences interact. It also means there will be a richness and creativity that will emerge when we acknowledge our differences and love one another in the midst of our differences. Conflict is the price we pay for our individuality. It is inevitable.

Conflict Shapes Who We Are

Second, conflict shapes who we are. It is through conflict that we become more who God created us to be. Theologian Paul Tillich defined reality as “that which comes against, that which resists us.” It is through conflict that our individual natures are shaped. Conflict is not something to be resolved as much as something to be transformed.

Again, think of it this way. It is through encountering resistance that a child begins to distinguish the limits of her/his being. At first the world is an extension of themselves. But when the child pushes on the side of the crib and it does not move, or demands something from his/her parents, and they do not comply, the child experiences conflict. Without it, the true shape of the child’s personality would never be known. 

Disagreements Can Bring Clarity

You and I may not really know each other until we disagree. When I come up against something in you that is not the same as what is in me, then the shape of who you are begins to stand out clearly and distinctly against who I am. 

Our distinctiveness is neither good nor bad. It is just who we are. We each can love and respect each other for who we are and to move forward from there. Only then is there a chance for us to have real fellowship together. Conflict is a gift we receive that helps us love and respect one another as God has created us to be.

An Opportunity for Courageous Leadership

Third, conflict provides the opportunity to lead courageously. Conflict is a daily occurrence. Whether at home, at work, or within relationships, each occurrence is an opportunity to lead with courage and compassion. 

Remember, leadership is taking the responsibility for finding the potential in people and the courage of developing that potential. When conflicts arise, you can embrace the situation and the people involved. You work not only to address the problem, but you learn about your own leadership as you lead others through the adverse circumstances. Conflict is not something to be resolved as much as something to be transformed.

Tension Leads to Growth

As a leader, you see opportunities that others do not see. You assist others in growing in healthy relationships, because you know that the most authentic relationships do not truly begin until they experience some form of tension with each other. 

Think of it this way. In I John 1:5-7, John writes, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all…if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another…” 

This means that God is willing to be Godself in all openness. God, by nature, is transparent. God does not hide his uniqueness in darkness or in the shadows. Walking “in the light…” means practicing the same kind of authenticity and transparency. This is the only way you can have true fellowship with those entrusted to your care. You openly acknowledge the realities of the differences of the people around you and interact with them with honesty and clarity.

Courage to Lead

This is where your courage as a leader takes place because this way of leading and relating brings with it the possibility of conflict and disagreement. When two individuals who are not the same come down on opposite sides of things, you must have courage to be authentic and transparent. 

As I stated earlier, this is the price you pay for the kind of fellowship that grows out of honest interaction. It is inevitable. On the other hand, it is a gift that helps you lead with love and respect. It is not easy. Don’t try to avoid or minimize the conflict. See it as an opportunity to become the person and leader you were created to be. 

Your Next Step

This week, take a moment to reflect upon the conflict you are facing. As you focus upon the people involved, are you able to set aside your personal feelings? Are you able to listen to what is being said and to the feelings being expressed? As you listen, where can you work for positive and constructive change? 

Decide how you can best lead in the midst of the situation. Share your decision with a trusted friend. Offer your decisions and conversations to God and move forward with courage. You are not alone. Walk in the light and be who God created you to be. 

No matter how difficult, when you dare to lead with authenticity, working to transform conflict into healthy relationships, you will discover the fellowship God has intended for all God’s creation. 

Who you are is how you lead. 

There was a time in my life when making a name for myself was extremely important. I never said it out loud, but I wanted to be known for something significant. I thought that would give me a reason to like myself and that I would really be somebody who had accomplished something. 

Be Like Jesus

Even though I felt this way, I said I wanted to be like Jesus. I confess at that time I did not understand why Jesus did not share my preoccupation for notoriety. In fact, I was astonished at how indifferent Jesus was to fame or reputation. 

For example, during the early days of his ministry in Galilee, when he was making an impact with the wisdom of his words and the power of his deeds, he deliberately asked the people he helped not to say anything about it to other people.

One day in the wilderness, after feeding 5000 people, the crowd got so excited they wanted to make him their king.  He turned down their offer without batting an eye.

On the last night of his life, after the disciples had been quarreling all afternoon about “making names for themselves” and over who was going to be greatest among them, they gathered for supper in the Upper Room. Not one of them was willing to lower themselves to do the servant’s task of washing the other’s feet. According to John, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet…” (John 13:3-5).

Jesus and Status

In other words, Jesus did not hold himself above doing the lowliest of tasks. He did not care about status, position, or prestige.  And, there are those puzzling words Paul used in his letter to the Philippians, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself…” (Philippians 2:5-7). At the time I was trying to make a name for myself, I often wondered how Jesus could be that way and why something so important to me was not important to him. 

So, why am I telling you all of this?  Well, I believe this is one of the secrets to courageous leadership. 

Acceptance of Who God Created You to Be

Jesus didn’t have to make a name for himself because he wholeheartedly accepted the name God had given him. In the Hebraic sense, a name stood for the whole reality of the person. For Jesus to accept and be satisfied with this name meant that he totally accepted who he was, when he was, and where he was in history.   

It was this acceptance of who God had created him to be that freed Jesus from having to make a name for himself. He didn’t have to spend his energy trying to earn what he had already been given. He was at one with God and with whom God had created him to be. 

Jesus’ Authority

Here is the secret. Jesus’ authority was not because of an unusual I.Q. or a healthy E.I. His authority was neither because of a charismatic personality nor economic, social, or political power. His authority lay in his freedom to say, “I am who I am by God’s grace. It is good.” 

This means that it was good that Jesus’ parents were who they were.  It was good that his life was in the time of history that it was in.  It was good that he was a carpenter, that he got to associate with the people who lived in Nazareth.  All these things that came together to make Jesus who he was were good.

Who You Are is How You Lead

This is why I can say, “Who you are is how you lead.” You were created to lead at this time in history. Your experiences from childhood, through adolescence, into adulthood, and up to today, have shaped you into the person and leader you are for this time in history. 

Now, I’m not dismissing traumatic experiences, but whether you agree or not, you have been shaped into the leader needed for your church and for your community.  You might find yourself in a place you never dreamed of being, but life is good where you are.  You might find yourself with people with whom you identify as not your type, but life is good and enriched by the people entrusted to your care.

Courageous Leadership

The secret to courageous leadership is found in the condition of your heart. You might read books on leadership and attend seminars on leadership, but until you accept the truth that your life is good, that who you are, where you are, and when you are is a good gift from God, you will not be the person God intends you to be, much less the leader needed for this time. Who you are is how you lead. 

The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved

Look at the writer of the fourth Gospel. The writer is traditionally known as John. Yet, at no point in the Gospel does John identify himself by name.  He describes himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Why would he identify himself this way? Was he a spiritual egotist, suggesting that he was the favorite among the disciples? Was he part of the inner circle, making his way to the right hand of Jesus?  I suppose either could be true, but I think such speculation reveals more about us than him. 

Here is what I think. John, after meeting Jesus, began to live into his name. He began to become who he was created to be. I think when John referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” it was his way of saying, “The most wonderful thing that ever happened to me was the fact that Jesus loved me.  Before then I never had a reason to love myself.  My father, Zebedee, was so busy in the fishing business he did not have time for me.  My mother was a proud and ambitious woman. She had dreams of who my brother and I could be. She was always trying to get us in on the right and left hand of glory.  And my brother, James, was terribly competitive.  

But I never felt I had much worth until the day Jesus met me beside the sea. I could hardly believe it. He didn’t have an agenda. He didn’t pressure me. He didn’t make me feel as if I had to be number one in order to earn his affection.  He simply took delight in me. He took my gifts and interests seriously. And as our friendship developed an incredible thing happened. I began to love myself. For the first time in my life, I realized I did have worth and that who I was and when I was and where I was had value.”

“This is why I chose to refer to myself as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved.’ At first, it seemed like a miracle.  Jesus actually loved me.  But the more I lived with it, the more I realized that it was just the way it was supposed to be. I didn’t need to strive to be somebody. Because of Jesus, I was somebody. Before I met him, I was the son no one had time for or the child a parent was always trying to push, or a sibling’s rival.  But now, I see myself in a new light. I am a follower of Jesus.  I am the disciple whom Jesus loved, and because of that I am now a person who loves himself and who loves others.”

The Secret of Courageous Leadership

The secret to courageous leadership is to be who God created you to be…nothing more and nothing less. 

This week, try living up to your name and be who God created you to be. Contact a trusted friend and tell him or her how God’s love for you has shaped you into the person you are. Then tell them how God’s love has shaped your leadership. Just think about it. You are the leader whom Jesus loves.

Who you are is how you lead!

Wow. We have come to the end of September. Where has the year gone?  Over the past nine months, you have moved forward in your leadership by adapting to unexpected changes and developing new relationships. You have navigated a pandemic and established different patterns. From my perspective, you have learned to lead in surprisingly new ways. 

Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn

In his book, Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn, John Maxwell, playing off the quote, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose,” points out that we learn from our losses.  He writes that if we apply what we learn in the midst of our losses to the situations and circumstances in which we lead, we will be much closer to reaching our goals. I’m guessing you have learned a lot over the past nine to eighteen months. 

Learning is one of the key values of leadership. Effective leaders are learning leaders. Learning is as much a part of your life as eating. Leaders who are learners improve the environment for everyone around them. Learning is key to improvement.

What have you been learning?

So, what have you been learning over the past nine months? As I have been listening, I have heard you say you have learned:

New Technology

You said, “I need to learn how to…” and you learned what you needed to move forward with worship, bible study, virtual gatherings, etc. You learned to approach routine encounters in fundamentally different ways.

Alternative strategies

You have experimented with different ways of living out the mission by engaging a coach and/or peers to provide feedback regarding what you have learned.  

To become a more effective leader

You have been determined to learn useful insights by reflecting on what worked well, what didn’t so well, and what might work better next time.

I know you have learned much more than what I have listed above. But from my perspective, you have learned some significant patterns for effective leadership.  I am grateful for you and for what you are learning. You were created to lead for this time.

What Have I Learned?

Over the past nine months, I have learned some things as well. I have learned:

Effective Christ-centered leaders become part of the fabric of the community

To be the leader needed for today, you must be intimately involved in the life of the community. You know the assets as well as he needs. You know the marginalized as well the influential people by name. You are recognized and known by people in the places you show up. (For help in becoming the fabric of the community, check out 7 Missional Questions).

It takes courage to follow Jesus

If you assume I should have learned this early in my ministry, you are correct. But I think it takes more courage today than in my earlier years. In the culture in which we live, “you can safely assume you have created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do” (Anne Lamott). It takes courage to show up in the places Jesus leads and to love the people Jesus loves.  I saw a sign recently that read, “I love you. You’re probably thinking, ‘You don’t even know me.’ But if people can hate for no reason. I can love.” When you invite Jesus into your life, he tends to bring all his friends with him.

It matters where you start

I have known this for a long time, but it seems more applicable today. 

You might think of it this way, the starting place is not whether someone or some issue is progressive or evangelical, liberal or conservative, socialist or capitalist. To start with a political stance is to argue your political stance. Starting with this, does my action love my neighbor, look out for his or her interests more than my own, and produce the fruit of the Spirit? It matters where you start.  I am learning that when we figure out that God is more concerned with loving creation than judging it, we will then be part of the transformation of our churches, communities, and the world. As Jesus followers, we start with Jesus.

Effective Leaders are Learning Leaders

Just like you, I have learned more than I have listed. The point is learning leaders are effective leaders. Learning leaders model for others what they are learning and invite others into learning as well.

An Invitation

I want you to join me in an experiment for the month of October. I have been reflecting on one way you and I, as leaders, can model God’s love for those entrusted to our care as well as our communities. This is an experiment in courageous leadership. Remember, who you are is how you lead.  

Here is what I want you to do. Whether you are in an urban church, suburban church, or a rural church, get in your mind one of the persons you encounter at an intersection holding a sign. 

The sign usually says something like, “Homeless. Need Help. Hungry. God Bless you!” or “Homeless and hungry vet. Anything will help.” Get the face of the person in your mind. Regardless of what you feel or think, God loves that person as much as God loves you. So, this month, as a child of God, try something other than passing by another child of God. 

Do one of the following: (Just try one for the month)

  • Pray asking God how you can best share God’s love with the person
  • Prepare a sandwich and/or some fruit and hand it them
  • Give them something to drink. Something warm on a cold day, something cold on a hot day
  • Better yet, park your car, get out and introduce yourself to the person, and listen as he/she introduces themselves to you.
  • When you get to know the person by name, take food to them on a daily basis.

When you have done one of the above, give God thanks for loving you in and through the person at the intersection. I promise your action of care and compassion will transform your life and make you a more courageous leader. Who you are is how you lead.

Sometimes You Learn

Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn. Let me know how you are doing with the experiment. I’ll check back with you. May what you learn assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be.

And remember, who you are is how you lead.

Who you are is how you lead. 

And how you lead reveals why you lead. 

I know that sounds obvious, but if you are not clear on why you lead the people entrusted to your care then those people will be unclear as well. If you are unclear, you will create unexpected problems for yourself. 

Remembering

Over the past week, we have commemorated the 20 anniversary of 9/11.  Out of the stories we have heard, there is one story that stands out to me. It is the story of Father Mychal Judge, the first recorded death at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001.  Among his responsibilities was to serve as a chaplain to several battalions of the New York Fire Department. 

As I understand it, he died as he lived. He rushed into the North Tower with firefighters. When commanders gave orders to evacuate the building, he refused to abandon the hundreds of firefighters still trapped inside. 

It is recorded that he said, “My work here is not finished.” Other priests came to Grand Zero, but Father Mychal was the only priest to enter the World Trade Center that day. He offered absolution, prayers, and the Last Rites in the lobby as death rained all around him. He died that day as the result of blunt force trauma. After his death, his fellow firefighters carried him out in an image described by one reporter as “the definition of authentic American patriotism and humble service.” 

At his funeral, thousands of people showed up, describing how Father Mychal had helped them during their time of need. There were stories of medical care, clothing, housing, food, hope, and a future. He was known to have compassion for HIV/AIDS patients during a time when many were treated like lepers. It was reported that people thought of Mychal as a special friend, that is because he was. 

These words were spoken about him, “This morning we come to bury Myke Judge’s body, but not his spirit. We come to bury his voice, but not his message. We come to bury his hands, but not his good works. We come to bury his heart, but not his love…”  “In the next weeks, we’re going to have name after name of people being brought out of that rubble. And Mychal is going to be on the other side of death to greet them.”  

Your Why

In my opinion, Mychal Judge knew his “why”, his purpose in life. He lived his purpose and the people entrusted to his care experienced his compassion and care in simple but profound ways. 

By now you might be wondering what the story of Mychal Judge has to do with leadership. What more would any of us want in a human being? His courageous actions were seen and reported as “the definition of authentic American patriotism and humble service.” I have no doubt about it. We need more people like Mychal Judge. My question is, was American patriotism and humble service his purpose for living? 

I’ll answer my question by saying, “No.” They were the results of his purpose. Mychal Judge was created for the time he lived and served. God’s call upon his life was to share the love, the agape, of God, with the people he met in the situations and circumstances he found himself. He was an example of “…we love because God first loved us.” 

Why Do You Lead?

So, why do you lead the way you do? Let me give you some of the reasons leaders lead and you decide if any of these fit you. Do you lead because you like…

  • being in a position of authority and power?
  • being set apart from other people?
  • pointing out and fixing mistakes?
  • the reward from good work? 

Do you lead because you…

  • feel good about helping others?
  • can’t see yourself doing anything other than what you are doing?
  • had an experience that you are trying to relive? 

I am sure there are times one or more of these reasons crosses your mind, but I am equally sure none of them are the reasons you lead as you do.   

You Are God’s Beloved

Who you are is how you lead and how you lead reveals why you lead. So, let me remind you: 

You are beloved daughters and sons of God. You have been created to live and serve during this time in history. God’s call upon your life is to share the love, the agape, of God, with the people you meet in the situations and circumstances you find yourself in. You are an example of “…we love because God first loved us.” 

Take time this week to reflect upon why you lead the way you do. What one thing will you do to share the love of God with the people entrusted to your care? How will you be an example of God’s love this week?   

Final Reminders

Let me remind you that Karen Cook, Sara Thomas, and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.  

This week, check out LeaderCast. Sara Thomas and I have a conversation with Lizzy Ortiz regarding her leadership and ministry, We Are One Body in Christ. Listen to Episode 195 here. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

Who you are is how you lead.

Leading through the COVID pandemic has been exhausting and emotionally draining. It seems that no matter what you say or how you lead, someone is unhappy and feels the need to make it known. Whether it be with wearing a mask or being vaccinated, it has been difficult to stay the course and be focused in the midst of the continual pushback. 

Leadership has become more of a burden than an opportunity when you add a divisive political climate, racial unrest, and uncertainty of the church to the pandemic. It has become difficult to lead with confidence and courage when you feel the ground is moving and you don’t have a firm place to stand. 

The Complexity of Humanity

I get it. When I was in my early teens, a very important person in the community, a church member, was arrested on drug charges. His arrest was part of the headlines of the local newspaper. 

The Sunday after his arrest, I was sitting with my grandmother in the sanctuary before worship. I listened as she and her friends discussed the man arrested. I heard two different reactions to the event. 

One person said “I simply don’t believe it. He and his family have been a part of this church for years. He has served in Viet Nam and become a leader in the community. I think this is a mistake. He is a good man.”  Another person said, “I wasn’t surprised at all when I read the paper yesterday. I never have trusted him. There is something about him that has always made me suspicious.” 

I remember being confused by the differing reactions. I know now that I was learning how complex the human decision-making process can be. Obviously, there was more involved than just an objective response to facts.  

Assumptions

Before the man was ever accused of anything, people had already formed certain impressions of him. Those assumptions explained why one person could look at the situation and say, “I don’t believe it; there must be a mistake,” while another person could look at the same set of facts and say “I’m not surprised at all. I never have trusted him.” 

Assumptions are important when it comes to how we deal with the facts in the world around us.  We human beings are not purely rational, objective creatures.  We see the world through our assumptions. That is why I say, “it matters where you start.” 

You are influenced by your assumptions about God and your assumptions about the people entrusted to your care. It is not simply about what God does or does not do, but whether your starting point is one of trust or mistrust. Your assumptions make all the difference in your leadership. 

Where You Begin Matters

If our assumptions are so influential in shaping our decision-making, how do we go about forming our assumptions?  According to the scripture, this is the place where our trouble begins.  We human beings do not take the task of assumption building seriously enough. The question is, do we base our assumptions on solid evidence or arbitrary hearsay? 

Genesis 3

In the third chapter of Genesis, we get a description of how the first mistrust of God came to exist.  It is an example of careless, irrational assumption building. Out of the joy of God’s own aliveness, God decided to create the world.  There were no ulterior motives. God was not trying to get something for himself. Rather God was trying to give something of himself. God wanted to widen the circle of joy.

To set this into motion, God proceeded to show the man and the woman how things were meant to work. They were free to eat from all the trees of the Garden except one, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The fruit of the tree was poisonous to their systems. It was placed there to serve a religious reason rather than a nutritional one. God saw that the whole mechanism looked good. 

Asking Questions

Then out of nowhere, a snake moved into the picture and began to ask questions.  He asked the woman, “Did God put you in this beautiful place and then prohibit you from eating this fruit?” She responded quickly to the gross overstatement, “Oh no, we can eat everything in the garden except that tree in the center. God said it would be poisonous to us.” 

The snake shook his head and said, “The old scoundrel is threatened by you. God knows that if you eat the fruit, you will be just like God. You were created to build up God’s own ego. Holding you down builds God up. If you know what is good for you, you will call God’s bluff. You will eat the fruit and take over this place.” 

Carelessness 

The accusation of the snake put creation in a totally different perspective. Up to this point, there was no indication that suspicion of any kind had entered the minds of the man and woman. More importantly, there was not one shred of evidence for such an attitude of distrust. Nothing God had done would have given the humans reason to believe the serpent’s accusations. 

Without checking things out or going to the source and trying to get to the bottom of the situation, the first man and woman carelessly bought into the unfounded suspicion raised by the snake. For no good reason, they embraced the rumor and began to act as if it contained the truth about God.  That incredible carelessness has had devastating results. 

A New Perspective

So, imagine that I am sick, and I am caring for myself with old prescriptions. I get sicker and sicker until I call my trusted primary care physician. Suppose she comes by my house to check out my illness. I show her the medicine I have been taking, and she says, “This is the worst possible stuff for your problem.  Put it away and start taking this prescription. In a matter of hours, you will start feeling better.” And she writes out a prescription. 

Mistrust

When my trusted physician leaves, suppose a plumber who has been working to unclog my sink comes out and says, “I overheard that conversation. Did that doctor tell you to quit taking your old medicine and start taking some of this new stuff?  Those doctors.  The problem is your old medicine was paid for and there is no profit in it for her. The only reason she is giving you this new prescription is to make a little money on the side.  You can’t trust doctors these days. If you know what is good for you, you will stick with the medicine you have and forget all about that new prescription.” 

Now, what would you think of me if I bought into that kind of mistrust?  You would say I was crazy to take the word of a plumber over the word of my physician when it comes to medicine.  

Yet, according to Genesis, this is exactly what our forebears did back in the beginning.  They took the word of a snake over the word of their Creator when it came to interpreting life.  They uncritically accepted a negative image of God that had no basis in fact and began to build their assumptions with mistrust. Thinking the world was a conspiracy rather than a creation and God a foe rather than a father, the humans proceeded to take life apart and put it together in ways that did not work.  They drank the poison and got sick, just as they had been warned, and all of creation proceeded to degenerate into chaos. 

Careless or Care Full?

That is how God’s bad reputation got started.  With a flimsy accusation and some careless assumptions, centered in mistrust. 

Now, how has God responded to this carelessness? Did God get defensive and strike back in anger? No. According to the scripture, God’s response was, “God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). 

Jesus Sets Things Right

John Killinger put it this way, “Jesus is God’s way of getting rid of a bad reputation.” Overall the confusion and suspicion that has been generated by the conspiracy theories, God sent Jesus so that people could see what God looked like. In other words, in Jesus, you can see and experience that God believes in you. The question is, “Can you trust a God like that?” Is the one Jesus portraying a sadist, trying to hold people down and dehumanize them, or a joyful Creator who all along has had nothing but good in mind? 

Jesus is God’s attempt to set right what has gone wrong. This is why Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (II Corinthians 5:19). Jesus is God’s way of reaching all the way down to our assumption level and showing us that, from the Garden until today, we have been mistaken about who God is and what God wants to do with us. 

It Matters Where You Start

You are leading in a time of mistrust and suspicion. In a time when some people want to take the word of social media over the fact of science. When others want to create anxiety over a healthy vaccine yet put their lives in jeopardy with a horse dewormer. You are leading in a time of inconsistencies when people say they have a right to make decisions about their own bodies by not wearing masks yet want to take that same right away from women when it comes to their own bodies. How do you lead courageously in the midst of such mistrust, suspicion, and confusion? 

It matters where you start. As you know, going toe-to-toe, arguing your point does not work, much less bring peace. So where to you start? Start by taking the action of God seriously enough to build your assumptions upon it. Allow the image of Jesus to penetrate down to the level of your assumptions, and love the people, regardless of their point of view, the way you have been loved. 

My Assumptions

  • Based upon this action of God, my assumptions are:
  •  You are a beloved daughter and son of God. God has chosen you, given you a name, and loved you from the beginning.
  • You have been called a lead in this time in history.  God created you to live and lead in this time.
  • You have been gifted to face the cynicism and conspiracies of today. It is never easy to stand up and speak when the vote is going the other way, but you are not alone. God is with you, for you, and works for your good. 

God believes in you. 

Because who you are is how you lead, what one thing will you do this week to show the people entrusted to your care that God believes in them? Remember, it matters where you start.  Why not start with the fact that they are beloved children of God and gifted for love and service for this very time in history?

Reminders

Let me remind you that Karen Cook, Sara Thomas, and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.  

This week, check out LeaderCast. Sara Thomas and I have a conversation about Leadership as Service. Listen to Episode 194 here. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

Who you are is how you lead.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a notebook & pen in my hand. A neighbor growing up worked for a paper manufacturer and the scraps of paper he shared with us provided endless hours of joy with my childhood friends. 

Suffice it to say, writing and journaling weave in and out of my life like threads woven on your favorite blanket. 

But, recently, I confess, I’ve felt scattered. My notebook was filled with plenty of “to-do lists.” It even was close by like an adult security blanket. 

But something was off.

Feeling Scattered

Usually, when my feet hit the floor to start the day, I give God thanks for another day and look at my calendar for the day and week ahead.

Then, I’m off and running.  When I noticed the scatteredness I was feeling, I started asking questions.

Let me be clear. The scatteredness I was feeling was bothering me, not hindering anyone else. I was tending to my responsibilities and the people in my life. And, to poke a little fun, I have Achiever as #2 on my CliftonStrengths. Not getting things done can lead to panic and deep frustration in my soul. This wasn’t panic level unsettledness. 

When I’m not checking something off a list, I’m not being productive. (Welcome to the mind & heart of someone with Achiever talent!) The people who love me, warts and all, know that when I’m not productive, I’m not happy. As an aside, I’ve learned, the hard way, that rest can be one of the most productive things I can do. 

Something Was Off

But, having said all of that, something was off. 

I wondered, “Was I not getting enough sleep?” “Was I not eating well? Not setting good boundaries? 

No.

No.

No. 

What was off? 

For a few days, I simply practiced curiosity about what wasn’t “feeling right.” 

And then an unsolicited email from a coaching colleague landed in my inbox and I knew what that unsettled feeling was all about. Unintentionally, she helped me see what was happening. 

I’d not been using my journal or reflecting on my days with intentionality. In the midst of all the busyness, the one tool I use to process, reflect, and integrate what I’m learning about myself, others, and leadership was set aside in the busyness of daily life.

In the midst of personal and professional responsibilities, I had unintentionally set aside a key resource in my life. I returned to the email and recognized something I see happen with other leaders, too.

Busyness was crowding out space in my life to process all the input that was happening every day.

What, then, was needed?

Breathing Room

Busyness doesn’t lead to breathing room. Breathing room is the necessary pause in life that every leader needs to process the noise, input, and meetings we’re experiencing. 

That unsettled feeling I was experiencing was simply a whole lot of “input” in my life swirling in my soul without a place to land. 

In order to make meaning out of life, we need breathing space to foster growth. You might be thinking, isn’t that the rhythm God of God’s creation, too?

It sure is. We call that weekly breathing room Sabbath.

Daily, however, that breathing room happens for me with exercise, hobbies, and journaling. What I had not realized were the benefits a simple journaling practice brings into life and leadership.

“There is well over 35 years of scientific research that proves there are many benefits that can be gained through writing about your thoughts and feelings: lowered blood pressure, improved immune functioning, reduced stress, greater confidence, more clarity for decision making, healing emotional wounds, improving personal relationships, cultivating resilience and making meaning out of life events are among the many proven benefits of expressive writing.” L. Monk. 

Who knew that simple paper and pen could offer us so many benefits? It’s certainly helped me identify why I was feeling unsettled. Here are three ways leaders can benefit from journaling. It’s a simple, unexpected leadership tool that you can use to navigate life.

3 Ways Leaders Can Benefit from Journaling

First, journaling can help you focus and increase intentionality

Use your journal to reflect on how you engage your time and energy toward your values, priorities, and relationships. Exploring your thoughts and feelings about your goals, values, and relationships will help you make adjustments and recognize gaps. If you choose to reflect at the end of the day, here are three simple questions you can respond to:

  • What was awesome about today?
  • What would I change about today?
  • What have I learned and how will I use this going forward?

Second, journaling can boost your confidence.

Before you say, “Really, Sara?” here’s the thing. The process of untangling your thoughts on paper about a specific situation can help gain clarity which leads to confidence. 

Consider a situation where you’d like to be more confident. Here are a few suggested prompts to help you deepen your confidence.

  • What do I trust about myself?
  • What feels like a risk here?
  • If I were to let go of X belief, what might be possible?
  • How do my values inform my approach to this situation?

Finally, journaling can help leaders stop ruminating and build resilience.

Go back to the busyness of life I mentioned at the top of this article. When we ruminate on things, it leads to indecision. If we’re seeking to maintain a growth mindset, ruminating won’t do that! It will hinder growth and confidence. So while I’d like to simply say “stop it!” I know all too well it’s not always that simple. 

But, in the midst of our busyness, if we don’t stop and do something with our thoughts and feelings, our ruminating can lead to anxiety. And we’ve all experienced plenty of that in the past 18 months. We don’t need to pile on anxiety from daily life.

You might even be thinking right now about a challenge, conflict, or perceived slight that won’t stop cycling through your mind. Let’s try a different approach that will only cost you 15-30 minutes of your day. Grab a pen and paper and write about it.

Instead of offering your best as a leader, ruminating leaders can erode trust with our teams and impede your own health. Here’s why: your indecision, inaction, and avoidance lead to stress. And we all know what stress does. 

So what do you say? How about starting with a piece of paper and pen? Here are a few prompts to help you get started.

  • What is going well? What created this? What role did I play?
  • What’s challenging for me right now? What contributed to this? What’s my role in that?
  • What strengths can I honor and draw on in my daily life? How?

One Unexpected Leadership Tool

At the end of the day, a regular practice of journaling can help you as a leader stay grounded in who God created you to be and guide you towards being the courageous leader God wants you to be.

If you see me with a notebook in hand, it might have less to do with keeping track of what needs to get done and more to do with weaving the threads of life, leadership, and learning into a beautiful tapestry only God can create. 

Maybe today you’ll give yourself the gift of breathing room.  Grab a pen and paper and respond to one of the journal prompts above. It will be one step in remembering, “who you are is how you lead.” 

PS – Every week, the podcast offers two or more questions for you to integrate what you’re learning into your practice of leadership. We call it Write it Down/Talk it Out. Check out this week’s episode and questions here.

Last week, in a county board of education meeting in Tennessee, the board voted to require masks for students, staff, and visitors in elementary school buildings and on all school buses. The vote came after a contentious 4-hour meeting that was frequently interrupted by anti-mask residents who were in attendance. 

The tension of the meeting spilled out into the parking lot. Two men, who were among the anti-mask contingent, directly threatened a doctor who testified in favor of the mandate. As the doctor was getting into his car, a man yelled, “We know who you are, and we know where to find you!” 

Another man yelled, “You will never be allowed in public again!”

Leading in the Midst of Crisis

I don’t know about you, but such events are unthinkable to me. Frankly, they are disturbing and disgusting. I’m not questioning the right or opportunity to express opinions, but I am questioning the actions of threatening, blaming, and shaming.

As I read that report, I began to think of you as a leader. How do you speak up and lead when you know the people entrusted to your care are conflicted in their thinking, angry in their speaking, and threatening in their actions? Too often the reaction to mask mandates and vaccines pushes aside public health and human dignity.  When there is an opportunity to think of others and to respond with care and compassion, the reaction is self-focused and filled with rage and intimidation. So, how do you lead in the midst of a crisis?

A Good Word

I don’t know how many churches there are in the Columbus metro area, but I do know there are over 200 United Methodist congregations in the Capitol Area Districts.  I also know that the people entrusted to your care wait in anticipation for a good word from you. Although the event referenced above was in Tennessee, you lead and serve people, in your central Ohio communities, who have similar feelings and opinions regarding masks, vaccines, and personal rights.

How do you lead courageously in the midst of a crisis? 

1.      Remember who you are and why you do what you do. 

You are a child of God, and you have the opportunity to let people experience God’s love and care in and through you. Your identity is shaped by who God is and not by your preferences. So, regardless of your personal feelings about masks, vaccines, and personal rights, you are thinking of what is best for the people around you, recognizing their potential, and assisting them to live into being who God has created them to be.   

As a courageous leader, who is a Jesus follower, your leadership is characterized more in the fruit you produce than in your opinions.  So, your life is not characterized as much by whether you agree or disagree with masks and vaccinations as it is by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23).

With that in mind, it matters where you start.  You are a Jesus follower. Start there. You are a leader within a community of Jesus followers. Help people start with Jesus. This will take courage because some people will want to start thinking of themselves as “American” or “free” or “white” or “Republican” or “Democrat.” 

Starting anywhere other than Jesus separates us from one another. Starting anywhere other than Jesus, people perceive that their sense of self is being threatened. They feel insecure, powerless, and out of control. Sometimes people feel they must defend themselves and protect their rights.  At other times, people are not thinking in terms of relationships or character. Care and forgiveness are nowhere to be found. Remember who you are and why you do what you do because who you are is how you lead!

2.      Be a peacemaker. 

As a Jesus follower, you are identified as a child of God by your peacemaking. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). It is not always convenient to stand firm in faith. Courageous leaders face their fears, trusting and risking vulnerability because they know who they are.    

Too often leaders think that keeping the peace is more important than making peace.  Keeping peace often comes with keeping silent. If you don’t speak up, then you are keeping things peaceful. 

It is difficult to speak up when you know that most of the people around you are going the other way. But if you stand in fear and react out of emotion, you give power to what is not real and to what is not true. At any given time, people react out of fear.  At such times, silence is not an option.

It is easy to give in to your thoughts and feelings of uncertainty. But courageous leaders look beyond the immediate situation and circumstances. Things are not right with the world. What we are experiencing is more than differences in opinion, lack of knowledge, or poor communication.  It cannot be explained away as someone’s likes and dislikes. The struggle is real and dangerous.

At times like these, people are looking for a peacemaker, someone who leads with trust and confidence. They are looking for someone who can offer hope, not as wishful thinking, but as God’s preferred future of shalom. So, raise your voice and speak clearly.

  • Wear a mask – For your own health and out of care and compassion for others
  • Get vaccinated – For your own health and the well-being of others
  • Your right as a Jesus follower is to love others. Insisting on your own rights negates the love you have received in and through Jesus.

Be a peacemaker. Being a living child of God is not easy, but people will recognize and experience God’s love in and through you.  Who you are is how you lead!

3.      Be the leader needed for this time. 

You were created to lead at this time in history. You have been gifted with the strengths and abilities to lead courageously and effectively.  To be the leader you have been created to be, you will need to join hands, if not hearts, with people with whom you may not associate, agree, or understand. Model for your community and the world God’s design for all creation. Uncertainty and confusion can seem overpowering. Yet, God’s plan for creation is to bring order out of chaos.

It is not easy, but when you know who you are and why you do what you do, you can step up and lead with courage in troubled and uncertain times.  

Here are a few things to remember:

  • Do to others what you would have them do to you (Luke 6:31)
  • Love one another…By this everyone will know that you are my disciples. (John 13:34)
  • Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 5:32).
  • Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility regard others as more important than yourselves (Philippians 2:3)
  • Love is patient, love is kind. It is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on getting its own way. It does not dishonor others. It is not easily angered or resentful and keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not celebrate wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (I Corinthians 13:4-7)
  • Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth. Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say (Ephesians 4:29)
  • Be imitators of God as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us (Ephesians 5:1-2)
  • Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. . . so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-12)

Difference Makers

When you come to the end of the day “having done everything” you can, stand firm, because you know that in the midst of all the confusion there is the presence of God. You have been created to lead for this moment. In whatever you face, you are standing firm on the promise, power, and victory of the Risen Christ.  Thanks be to God!

You can make a difference.  You and I know that we can’t do it alone and God is not going to do it for us. But you can be the leader needed in the midst of crisis when you open the door and invite God through Christ to enter in. To you, who has been created to lead at the time, the invitation remains, “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come to you and eat with you, and you with me.” (Revelation 3:20).

In the midst of crisis, be the leader God has created you to be. This week, how will you model the love you have experienced in Jesus? In what situation or circumstance will you step up and lead with courage and grace? Remember, who you are is how you lead.

Final Reminders

Let me remind you that Karen Cook, Sara Thomas, and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.  

This week, check out LeaderCast. Sara Thomas and I have a conversation about Doing Hard Things. Listen to Episode 192 here. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

Who you are is how you lead.

The past year has offered each of us, as leaders, numerous learning opportunities. A variety of situations and circumstances have required changes in how we work and how we communicate with those entrusted to our care. The shifts are subtle but are necessary for becoming the leaders needed for this time. Whether it is remote from the kitchen table or in-person in the meeting room, these shifts will help you navigate the leadership challenges of today. 

Three of these shifts are:

  • Rhetoric to Relationships  
  • Self-Awareness to Self-Direction  
  • Time Management to Time Value 

1.      Rhetoric to Relationships: Shift Your Focus to Empathy.  

Courageous leaders are effective communicators, but leadership is deeper than words. Courageous leadership transforms rhetoric into relationships. When people say, “we need to improve our communication” or “you are not communicating with us,” they are saying “we feel disconnected and not a part of things.” When they say, “You don’t know who we are” or “we don’t know who you are,” they are saying, “we are not connected, and we don’t trust you.”

The number one characteristic people want in their leader is trust. You are leading in a time when saying you care is not enough.  The people entrusted to your care want you to know who they are and understand their life situations.  Along with giving programmatic updates, asking questions, and active listening, you are being asked to go deeper and develop empathy. Brene Brown says empathy fuels connection: it’s feeling with people and connecting with a person’s situation. 

It is showing you care, not just as the leader, but as a person. I know this sounds simplistic, but over this past year people have missed relationships. The time is right to model active listening and compassion. It is important to connect with people through their stories, whether it be stories of family members being sick, the difficulties of homeschooling, or other kinds of loss and grief.  Make time in your work life and in the work of your people to shift from updates and reports to listening and connecting to what is happening in their personal lives.

Try this, ask people how they are really doing, and more importantly, wait for the response. Empathy is being able to make space between your question and someone’s answer. Shift the good of what you are saying into meaningful relationships. 

2.      Self-Awareness to Self-Direction

Courageous leaders have the understanding and ability to manage their own thoughts and emotions when responding to individuals and to unwanted situations. There is a difference between reacting emotionally and responding neutrally.  Self-awareness is the ability to be aware of and control your own emotions. We might call it emotional intelligence.   

The shift is from being only aware of your thoughts and emotions to directing your behavior willingly with curiosity and kindness.  Your response does not invalidate or deny your emotions but trusts them as a way of learning about yourself and how to use them in positive and productive ways.  

So, as you become more aware of your feelings, you know more how to navigate through them. How do we do this? Be present in the moment. Be aware of your thoughts and feelings. Acknowledge that they are just thoughts and emotions. And understand that they do not define you.  As you become more aware of how to navigate your own emotions, thoughts, and responses, you will become more aware of what impact your actions have on others.

With this shift, you will not only be aware of your own feelings and the impact of your actions, but you will also become the leader people trust and look to for care and direction. 

3.      Time Management to Time Value

Courageous leaders not only manage their own time and value the time of others but they know the significance of the time they have been given to relate to and lead others.

Our workdays have changed. We cannot simply transfer how we worked in an office into the home space. Cramming meetings and presentations into zoom calls simply does not work. Our context has also changed. So, it is necessary to shift from managing our time to designing our time around how we work, based on what we are working on and with whom we are working. 

Consider being more intentional about how people come together. Consider what can be done by email and what needs to be done face-to-face. Do face-to-face meetings need to be in person or virtually?

When you are planning a meeting, consider who needs to be present, the agenda, and what decisions must be made. Again, I know this seems simple, but time value allows you to send out information before the meeting, have a conversation by text or email, and before making the decisions. Time value provides you the opportunity to not only manage your time, take seriously the time of others, but work more efficiently as you lead effectively.

So, to shift from rhetoric to relationships and from self-awareness to self-direction, build in time to meet individually, one-on-one, with the people you lead. Keep in mind that you always have the opportunity to listen. Sometimes your listening will be work and other times you are listening to what others have to share.  

It seems that there is never enough time in the day. But, since we all get the same 24 hours, why is it that some people achieve so much more with their time than others? The answer lies in shifting from activities to relationships. Being busy is not the same as being effective. It isn’t even working smarter instead of harder.  It is in using your time to develop relationships with care and compassion.  People want a leader who they can trust. Who you are is how you lead.

Your Next Step

This week, what one shift can you make? What one shift will you make?

Remember, Karen Cook, Sara Thomas, and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.  

This week, check out LeaderCast. Sara Thomas and I are discussing barriers to leadership growth and what you can do about it. Tune and listen to Episode 191: 4 Barriers to Leadership Growth and What You Can Do about it. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

Remember, who you are is how you lead.

How are you doing this week?  I genuinely want to know. I care about you and your ministry. To say the least, you have been through a lot over the past eighteen months. I don’t need to rehash all the events, but I do want to commend you on your leadership and to take an inventory of how you are doing. 

Becoming Who God Created You to Be

Over the years I have had some good district superintendents. Those who I considered the best were the superintendents who came alongside me and assisted me in becoming the leader God created me to be. 

So, I’m wondering how I best serve you as your district superintendent.  Some of you know that I ask a lot of questions. Most of my questions are either out of curiosity or for clarity. I can honestly say that with each question, I am seeking ways to assist you in becoming the best leader you can be.   

Reflecting on Ministry

With that in mind, I am curious about how you are doing in this season of your ministry. You have just lived through a time like no other time in history. There have been concerns over what is coming next, grief over what once was, and anxiety about what to do now. You have learned new ways of doing some things and better ways to do others.

So, I have some questions, mostly out of curiosity, to help take an honest look at what you have accomplished so you might step into your next season of ministry with courage and effectiveness. 

Let’s consider the impact you have had on the people entrusted to your care.  Whether family, friends, neighbors, church members, or colleagues, let’s look at how you have made a difference in their lives. 

1. Reflect upon some things you have accomplished over the past eighteen months. 

Be honest and generous with yourself. What challenges did you have to overcome? What did you learn that can be useful now or be used in the future?    

It is okay to feel good about it. Be kind to yourself and take notice of some of the small things you have accomplished. 

Did you learn to cook something you haven’t cooked before, start a new exercise routine, or pick up a new hobby? Maybe it was keeping your children fed and clothed as you navigated the chaos of becoming an at-home teacher. Or, may it was when you set boundaries, either with work or in your personal life, you accomplished something significant.   

Get one or two of those accomplishments in mind. 

Now breathe deeply and whisper this prayer, “O God, thank you for giving me the strength and courage to endure through difficult and uncertain times. Amen.” 

2. Reflect upon times you shared or experienced love over the past eighteen months. 

When were you vulnerable and empathetic? 

Where did you take people seriously when you felt it was difficult to do? 

When did you listen to and make a place for people with whom you disagreed? 

Whether it was with family, friends, church members, or strangers, where did you provide a caring and safe place for people to become who God had created them to be? 

 Get one or two of those people or moments in your mind. Now breathe deeply and whisper this prayer, 

“O God, thank you for loving people through me, and thank you for loving me through those same people. Amen”  

3. Reflect upon times when you experienced joy. 

What made you stop to remember God’s goodness and to give God thanks? 

What was taking place when you realized your interaction with people was a response of gratitude for God’s grace? 

When did you feel at one with God and the people around you?  

Think about a time when you laughed so hard you cried, a time you were amazed by God’s presence, and/or a moment you keep close. Get one or two of those people or moments in your mind.  

Now breathe deeply and whisper this prayer,

“O God, thank you for the deep joy you have planted in my heart. Help me be so joyful that the people around me experience your joy in and through me. Amen.”  

4. Reflect upon the moments you gave someone the benefit of your doubt. 

How did you show God’s love and kindness to people whether they deserved it or not? When did you say to yourself, “I know he is doing the best he can?” Or “How can I help her take the next step?”  

Get one or two of those people or moments in your mind. Now breathe deeply and whisper this prayer, 

“O God, thank you for caring for people in and through me. Help me to be open to receive your kindness and goodness through them.  Amen.” 

5. Reflect upon the situations where you experienced courage. 

What risks did you take? When did you have to be vulnerable? What empowered you to make decisions and lead through difficult situations? Who were the people that came alongside you to encourage you?  

Get one or two of those people or moments in your mind. Now breathe deeply and whisper this prayer, 

“O God, thank you for giving me the strengths and skills to lead with courage. By your grace, give me the courage to assist others to live and lead courageously. Amen.”  

You’re Doing Great!

As a leader, you have accomplished more than you have given yourself credit for accomplishing. You have been gifted to lead at this time in history. People are looking to you to be the leader they can trust, a leader of compassion, a leader who is stable, and a leader who offers genuine hope. 

At the moment, we are in the middle of a mess. But because you have taken the time to reflect upon what God has done in and through you, you are more able to step up and out to lead with courage and grace. You have been created and gifted to lead at this time in history. So, how are you doing? 

Your Next Step

This week, call, text, email a trusted friend or colleague, and tell them something you have accomplished over the past eighteen months. Give them the opportunity to celebrate with you. At your best, you cannot be who God created you to be alone.  Remember, it is okay to feel good, so celebrate.

If you don’t have someone with whom you feel comfortable sharing, then call, text, or email me.  It would be my pleasure to celebrate your accomplishments. 

I am grateful for you and your leadership. You have accomplished much. Now is the time to stop and catch your breath before stepping back into the mess.  

Just remember, who you are is how you lead. Stay focused upon the God who has gifted you. Continue to be who God has created you to be. You have already made a significant difference. Just imagine what God will do in and through your leadership today and tomorrow. 

A Prayer for You

O God, thank you for my friends and colleagues. Thank you for the ways you have enriched my life in and through them.  By your grace, embrace them through me so we can be the leaders you need us to be at this time in history. I offer them to you in the name of Jesus. Amen 

Final Reminder

This week, check out LeaderCast. Sara Thomas and I are discussing what to do when you are living in times of uncertainty. Sometimes uncertainty looks like doubt. At other times, it looks like the need to learn a new skill. And still, at other times, it is wrapped up in decision fatigue or endless options that overwhelm you. Tune in and listen to Episode 190: What to Do When You Don’t Know What To Do. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past Episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021.