Tag Archive for: Courage

How are you dealing with stress these days? Stress can take a toll on the best of us. No matter how strategically or effectively you lead there is always a level of stress. As you juggle multiple demands to meet the needs that keep your church or business running smoothly, the stress gradually builds. Before you recognize it, your body and mind give way to sleepless nights and high doses of caffeine. Without your attention, the stress finally takes its toll, and you are left in a mess. 

Busy or Stressed?

Many of us are reluctant to admit it when we are stressed. We usually choose to answer that we are “busy” rather than admit that we are overwhelmed or do not want to deal with the workload. Our reluctance to talk about how pressure is impacting us has reached the point that some of us are ineffective in our ministry, and we don’t admit it or recognize it…at least publicly. 

High levels of stress can have a negative influence and ruin your effectiveness as a leader. It is easy to slip into the stress trap as you work to resolve day-to-day issues while dealing with difficult and disgruntled church members and not to mention doing your best to reach new people. Add to the list family dynamics and lack of personal care, too much stress causes unnecessary and often unnoticed anxiety and worry. 

I don’t need to continue down that negative path. You already know that stress keeps you up at night and irritable during the day. You already know the symptoms of being tired, sad, and disinterested, as well as poor eating habits and the general dislike of certain people. 

Not all Stress is Bad

But with all of that, not all stress is bad. 

There is healthy stress. When you are healthy as a leader, you search for answers to problems, connect with others, effectively use resources, and creatively use your strengths, talents, and skills. Keep that in mind, because when stress is not healthy, it overwhelms, isolates, and paralyzes. 

As a leader, you will feel pressure from all sides. Whether it is to meet certain expectations from supervisors or to address the needs and wants of the people entrusted to your care, there is pressure. The question is, how do you transform the pressure or stress into effective and courageous leadership? 

There are respected physicians and consultants who can and do provide effective plans for dealing with stress. I’m not attempting to take anyone’s place. I simply want you to consider how you can name your stress, face it, and transform it as a healthy leader. Below are four things to consider:   

Be True To Yourself

The greatest internal cause of stress is trying to be someone you aren’t. Knowing yourself frees you from living inconsistently and enables you to live within your values. It strengthens your ability to withstand pressure from others. 

It is not unusual to give up personal time and to work as many hours as needed to get the job done. But to be an effective leader, you must know your limits, set your boundaries, and care for your emotional, mental, and physical health. 

Take time to exercise, to pursue a hobby, to be with the people you love. You know what energizes you and what brings you joy. You can and will transform the stress you experience into effective and courageous leadership when you are healthy and in sync with yourself. 

Focus On Your Purpose

Another cause of stress is saying yes when you should say no. One of the causes of stress is that you do not keep your purpose clearly in focus. You are out of focus when you fear saying “no” will cause people not to like you. As an effective and courageous leader, you learn to prioritize both people and work. You don’t have to say “yes” to have people like you. 

A common mistake leaders make is trying to do it all. When you lose focus, you invite more stress, and when you are more stressed, you are counterproductive. Learn the strengths and abilities of the people with whom you work. Delegate tasks. Set people free to be who God has created them to be. Trust that they can do their jobs well and avoid being a micromanager. 

Keeping your focus allows you to get more done in less time. It transforms your stress into effective and courageous leadership. 

Adapt To Changing Contexts

Another cause of stress is trying to control things you can’t control. You can control what you do. You can influence what others do. But you can’t control the situations or the circumstances in which you and others interact.

Being true to yourself and focusing on your purpose is essential in keeping what you cannot control in check. So, keep yourself focused on what you can control. When you need help, ask for it. Effective and courageous leaders know what they need to get the job done. Working collaboratively is what makes a good leader a great leader. It is shortsighted to think that you can do it all without support. Knowing what you can and can’t control takes the pressure off you and helps develop the strengths and skills of the people with whom you work.

This might come across as stating the obvious, but you cannot control what is happening in Ukraine. You might not be able to influence the Ohio State legislature regarding concealed weapons or voter redistricting. You might feel helpless in what is happening in the United Methodist Church. But you do have control over how you will lead in the midst of what you cannot control, and you have influence over how the church responds.

Adapting to what you can control leads to effective and courageous leadership. You can transform stress into effective leadership by being true to yourself, keeping your purpose in focus, and leading through the chaos and confusion of what can be controlled and what cannot be controlled.

Surround Yourself With Trusted Leaders 

Another cause of stress is a lack of trust in the people with whom you work. You can and will relieve yourself of stress when you develop and trust the strengths, talents, and skills of the people entrusted to your care.

Effective leadership is not a matter of authority or position, it is a matter of emulation. The people with whom you work want a leader they can trust. When you cultivate an atmosphere of trust, you find yourself in the midst of highly productive and hope-filled leaders.

Effective and courageous leaders are content to see the honors and rewards of hard work go to their followers. When people know that you trust and respect them, they trust and respect you.

Effective and courageous leaders are loyal to those entrusted to them. When people know that you have their backs, they are free to live into their full potential as leaders.

Effective and courageous leaders live by the words of Jesus, “The greatest among you shall be the servant of all.” This is a truth that followers respect the most. 

There is so much more that can be said, but you get the point. Stress is a real and important issue in relation to effective and courageous leadership. As the leader, it is your responsibility to ensure that your stress levels do not impact the people with whom you work, as well ensure that their stress levels are kept in check. 

Stress and Christ-Centered Leadership

Allow me to conclude by reminding you of a familiar passage from Scripture and the pattern of read, reflect, respond and return. 

Read Matthew 11:28 

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” 

Reflect 

Jesus is speaking to all who are stressed. The words are spoken to people who are burdened with obligations that keep them from being in communion with God. In the case of stress, people who are burdened with situations that keep them from being who God created them to be. 

The invitation to rest is not an invitation to a selfish life of ease, but of deliverance from the artificial burdens that cause stress. 

Jesus is offering true Sabbath rest or the invitation to be true to yourself and to God’s love and care. 

Respond 

Where will I experience stress today? How will I address it? With whom will I share my stress? 

Return 

Where was I weary today? How did I respond to my weariness? What would I do differently? For whom am I grateful? 

O God, I give you thanks for what I have learned today and for the people who have helped me through my stress. Thank you for the rest you have provided.  Amen 

So, how are you dealing with your stress these days? Remember, who you are is how you lead.

Have you ever had one of those days when you just felt “out of sorts”? Although nothing catastrophic happened, there were a few insignificant events that ruined the day? As a result, you weren’t in the best of moods. The bumps along the way felt worse than they really were, and by the end of the day, you were exhausted and frustrated. 

I had one of those days recently. When I recognized what was going on, I decided I didn’t want to spend the rest of the day feeling crummy or as I say, “grousing around”. It wasn’t fair to my family, to the people around me, or to me. The last thing I wanted was to feel badly because I was a jerk. So, I took a few minutes for myself and focused on the things that had gone well and on the people with whom I had interacted. As I named each one, I gave God thanks for the opportunity to make a difference and for the people who enrich my life. 

Gratitude Can Transform Us

I know it might sound strange, but I have learned that gratitude has the power to transform. It is one of the most effective ways to become not only a better leader but also a better person. Gratitude is such a powerful behavior, it can and will enhance your leadership. Almost always, people respond positively to an expression of gratitude. 

What we know is this: A grateful leader is: 

Respected

Gratitude takes people seriously. When you express your gratitude to someone for his/her work, you are showing them respect and appreciation.  When people know you respect them, and take them seriously, you not only gain their respect, but you plant within them the desire to be grateful as well. 

Trusted

Gratitude is an expression of authentic care and compassion.  It cannot be faked. Think for a minute about a time you heard words like, “Thank you for visiting my mother,” or “Thank you for your sermon,” or “Thank you for your leadership with the committee.” How did you feel when you heard those words? Words of gratitude create a feeling of trust. Now, imagine how the people you lead feel when you express your gratitude to and for them. Expressing your appreciation and gratitude creates the trust followers need from their leader.   

Appreciated

Gratitude is always received positively.  Every person you know needs and wants encouragement and affirmation. So, when you say, “Thanks, that was awesome!” you are meeting a deep need. Grateful people are seldom angry people. When you express gratitude to and for someone, you not only gain their appreciation but create a positive culture of gratitude. 

Exercising Gratitude

Again, I know it sounds strange, maybe even too good to be true. But being a grateful leader is not easy. It requires a change of heart and persistent attention. So, how do you exercise gratitude?

Gratitude has an object.

To be truly grateful, your gratitude is focused upon a person or an event. Biblical writers are clear about the object of this gratitude:

o   “Oh, give thanks to the Lord” (Psalm 105:1)

o   “Thanks be to God” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

You can’t express gratitude in a vacuum. Gratitude, by its very nature, has an objective.

Gratitude is genuine. 

You can’t fake thankfulness. You may be able to pretend you are grateful for a while, but unless you are deeply and truly thankful, it’s not going to work. The good news is, by intentionally exercising gratitude on a daily basis, you can build up your gratitude muscle, and cultivate genuine gratitude.

Gratitude is expressed frequently.

Thanksgiving is more than one day a year.  A family gathering, with turkey, once a year is okay. But what is needed is a daily reminder to be thankful or a daily pattern of gratitude. To build your gratitude muscle, you will have to express it not annually, not monthly, not even weekly. Gratitude is a daily effort. When you think about it, there are a lot of things for which to be grateful, but the one thing to remember is: Gratitude is expressed frequently.

Gratitude is specific. 

Gratitude is not generic. As previously mentioned, gratitude has an objective, but it also has an immediate cause. Try these words of gratitude: “I’m really thankful for the way you handled that tense situation in the board meeting. You spoke softly, in a controlled way, but you also showed them why we need to move forward. Thanks for doing that.” Or “Thank you for that email last night. I know you stayed up to write it, and it was exactly the information needed for the meeting. Thank you for your hard work, and the detailed information.” You get the point. Be specific. 

If I could give one quality gift to each of my family members and to all you, my friends and colleagues, it would be the gift of gratitude. If I could have God do anything for you, I would ask God to make you grateful. Gratitude is the central virtue of the Christian faith. Over my 45+ years of ministry, I have never known a person who was grateful who was at the same time bitter, hurtful, or vengeful. 

Strengthen Your Gratitude Muscle

During the month of November and into the month of December, Sara Thomas and I are inviting you to strengthen your gratitude muscle by participating in two things: 

Daily 8:46 Prayers

Every evening at 8:46, Sara will post a prayer of gratitude for the evening on the Transforming Mission Facebook page and Instagam account. These prayers are short sentence prayers designed to assist you in developing a pattern of gratitude. 

Giving Thanks Podcast Mini-Series

Every Thursday, from November 5 – December 10,  Sara and I will provide a podcast focused upon gratitude for the week. Each podcast is designed to give thanks for the way God has gifted you to lead through these days of uncertainty and chaos. This is one way we want to thank you for your leadership.

Thank You

Every list of the characteristics of leaders different. Gratitude doesn’t make many of those lists. I think it is time to change that. I challenge you to put a little gratitude into your leadership. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Sara Thomas and I are grateful for you and your leadership. In gratitude for you, we are making ourselves available to assist you in your work of leading, serving, and caring. When Sara or I can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. Sara and I are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community.

How are you doing today? To say the least, you have been through a lot this year. I don’t need to rehash all the events that have changed your ways of living over the past several months, I know that each of us has struggled in our own ways. Whether it has been with the changes in worship, gathering in groups, learning new technology, caring for family while balancing work, illness, anxiety, depression, or any number of other changes, we have each had our challenges.  

Today, I want us to shift our perspective.  

Because we use so much of our brain space worrying about what is coming next, grieving over what once was, and struggling with anxiety in the present, we often forget how much we have accomplished. Whether family, friends, neighbors, church members, you have had a tremendous impact upon the people entrusted to you. Even when it didn’t feel like you were making a difference, you were successfully navigating some huge obstacles.

So, give me a few minutes of your time today. If you are willing, I want you to stop and focus upon yourself.  You have given much of yourself, as well as time, looking after and caring for others. Now it is time for a little self-care.    

Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

Think about something you have accomplished over the past seven months? Take a deep breath and be honest with yourself. 

Feels good doesn’t it? What challenges did you have to overcome? What have you learned that can be used in the future or is helpful now?  

It is okay to feel good about it. You have made some substantial accomplishments, but it doesn’t have to be anything big. Just think about what you have done. Did you learn to cook something you haven’t cooked before, start a new exercise routine, or take up water coloring? Maybe it was keeping your children fed and clothed as you navigated the chaos of becoming an at-home teacher. When you set boundaries, either with work or in your personal life, you accomplished something significant.   

So be kind to yourself and take notice of some of the small things you have accomplished, because when you build on those things, you can put your life and leadership into perspective. Some days it is easy to forget just how strong and impactful you have been.  

What Does Love Look Like?

Are you willing to give me a few more minutes? If you are, consider these things: 

Reflect upon times when you experienced love over the past seven months. When were you vulnerable and empathetic? Where did you take people seriously, even when you felt it was difficult to do? When did you listen to and make a place for people with whom you disagree? 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” 

Reflect on Joy

Reflect upon times when you experienced joy. 

Over the past seven months, what has 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 a moment you wanted to capture and to hold. 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.” 

You’re Generous

Reflect upon the moments you experienced generosity.

When did you give someone the benefit of your doubt? When did you show God’s kindness and goodness to people entrusted to your care 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 caring for people in and through me. Help me to be open to receive your kindness and goodness through them.  Amen”

Courageous Action

 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.” 

Look at What You’ve Done!

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.

You can and will lead through this present crisis. 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 able to step and out to lead with courage and grace.

Take Action

Are you still with me? Here is the last thing I’m asking you to do.

Call, text, email a trusted friend or colleague and tell them what you have accomplished. 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 with you.

Grateful for You

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, you will get through this by staying focused upon the God who has gifted you. Keep focused on how God has already used you to make a significant difference in the lives of the people entrusted to your care.

Don’t forget, when Sara Thomas or I can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. Sara and I are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community.

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

We are living in a time of enormous change. Almost daily we experience the anxiety of the ground moving under our feet. When the foundation upon which we have been living begins to shift, our anxiety levels intensify.  

When you are driven by anxiety, you see the world differently.  You begin to make your decisions based upon the fear of scarcity and to focus on problems and shortages rather than possibilities and abundance. As a leader, it is during such anxiety you need the courage to stay focused and to lead the people entrusted to your care.    

Stability

During times like this, one of the qualities people want in a leader is stability. According to a recent Gallup survey of 10,000 followers, words like strength, support, and peace were used to describe what people needed and wanted from their leaders. The survey revealed that people are looking for leaders who provide stability.   

It is during times of uncertainty, that you can be the leader that makes the world better. People want and need leaders of stable influence to navigate the unknowns of our changing communities and churches. Whether you believe it or not, your leadership makes the world a better place.   

7 Characteristics of Leaders Who Provide Stability

Trusted

You model integrity and consistency. You are capable and competent while leading with confidence and humility.  Further, you are focused and leave no doubt in the minds of followers as to what matters, and what will and will not be tolerated.

Relational

You are truthful about who you are, which makes you vulnerable. You are honest about your ability, which makes you authentic. Because you are both vulnerable and authentic you are able to develop healthy relationships. It is through your relationships that you are able to encourage, support, and inspire the people entrusted to your care.

Balanced

You are rational in your thinking and decision making. During uncertainty, you carefully listen to the people around you and take what is said into consideration. You lead because of who you are and not because of the anxiety of the moment or the opinions of the people filled with anxiety. Because your authenticity and trustworthiness grow out of your inner life, people have no doubt what motivates your decision-making. They trust you and the direction in which you are leading.

Compassionate and Caring

You understand your effectiveness is rooted in the well-being of the people you lead. Further, you listen to understand. You are empathetic and compassionate in your behavior. When people know you care, you help create a sense of trust and stability.

Mission-Focused

With the mission in mind, you lead with conviction. Because your leadership is grounded in the mission, you are clear regarding the direction you are leading. Because you are clear regarding your direction, you can focus upon the people entrusted to your care. Remember, especially in times of uncertainty, being “focused to a fault” is a good thing.  It is your focus that helps bring stability.   

Value-Driven

Clarity of values is fundamental in being a leader of stabilizing influence. Your values drive your actions. As a leader who is mission-focused and value-driven, you are decisive and clear when it comes to navigating the unknown and leading through confusion and chaos. Living your values in all aspects of your life, whether it be at home, at church, at work, or in the community, brings the stability people need from you as their leader.

Embracing the Future

The more you know and understand about the challenges of the future, the less there is to fear. Because you are looking toward a “new day” you are able to imagine and articulate exciting possibilities. You are not afraid to talk about the future. Being well grounded, you are able to gain wisdom and insight from past experiences and events.  Being trusted, you are able to inspire the people to see a better tomorrow. Because you have a compelling sense of what lies ahead, you are able to show people how they can and will be part of the future. 

Robert F Kennedy once said, “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can commit to a series of actions to make the world better, and the sum total of all those actions will write the history of our generation.” It is during times of uncertainty, that you have the opportunity to be the leader that makes the world better.

Being a Leader with a Stabilizing Influence

Are you ready to be the leader you have been created to be? Do you want people to trust you to lead them into the future? Do you want to make the world a better place? Of course, you do. So, below is one way you can check yourself regarding being a leader of stabilizing influence. This is similar to becoming a leader people can trust. Just know upfront, this will not be easy.

  1. Choose five people with whom you live, work, or play. These five people need to be people who will give you honest feedback.
  2. Have them answer these questions for you:
    • Can you depend upon what I say to be true?
    • Do you…
      • experience me as being authentic?
      • perceive that I listen for understanding?  
      • experience me as being caring and compassionate when under pressure?
    • Knowing what you know about me, are you able to honest with me?
  1. Make time to have a conversation with each of the five persons using #2 as your subject.
  2. After your initial feedback conversation, ask each person to give you feedback over the next 6 weeks as you focus upon becoming the leader with stability.   

During a time of rapid change, people need the assurance of stability. They are looking for leaders to be a stabilizing influence. As a leader, you can lead like never before. Now is the time to be the leader people need and want. Become the leader you want to follow.

As our world changes, our churches struggle, and we face uncertainty and fear, people are looking for leaders who can make a positive impact upon their lives and in the community.  They are looking for inspiration that speaks to their needs.  They want and need a leader who instills hope for the future. 

In a recent Gallup survey of 10,000 followers, what surfaced as some of the top characteristics people needed from their leaders were direction, faith, and guidance. These words describe the outcomes of hope.  

At this point and time in history, people are tired of false promises, disillusioned with artificial relationships, and disheartened with the sensationalism of political positions and conflicting opinions.  They are looking for authenticity and integrity. In a word, they want and need hope.  And they are looking to you, as their leader, to provide it. 

What is Hope?

Hope means different things to different people. To some it has religious connotations. To others it’s a strong feeling that motivates them to do great things. Some people think of hope as wishful thinking where they wish for something but have no control over the outcome. Still others see hope as a genuine possibility of making dreams reality by reaching goals. When there is a clear vision and a defined direction, hope is more than wishful thinking. It is the driving force of being able to evaluate the current situation, navigate discouragement, adapt to new realities, and renew the vision of what can and will be.  Hope keeps you focused in the midst of the challenges. 

Hope is the one thing that lifts our spirits and keeps us going despite the difficulties we face. It looks beyond the hardships to a better and brighter world. It keeps us believing and expecting that out of today’s darkness, God’s light will shine brightly. Hope is seeing the future we can attain by moving forward and, when needed, adjusting and adapting to the changing landscape. The importance of hope cannot be overstated. 

As a hopeful leader, you are constantly in pursuit of what ought to be. You are holding before those entrusted to your care the picture of what’s next and empowering them to see beyond today’s challenges to tomorrow’s answers.

C. Richard Snyder, in his book Positive Psychology: The Scientific and Practical Explorations of Human Strengths, defines hope as an emotional state accompanied by clear thoughts about what the future can be and how to get there”. He contends there are three main things that make up hopeful thinking:

  • Goals – Approaching life in a goal-oriented way,
  • Pathways – Finding different ways or pathways to achieve your goals,
  • Agency – Believing that you can use those different pathways to achieve your goals.

Are YOU a Hope-Filled Leader? 

Hope-filled leaders are:

1. Goal-Oriented

They always have the end in mind. They know their present situation and context, but don’t allow it to steal their joy. Hope-filled leaders are happy where they are but refuse to stay there. They are forward-thinking, inspiring, enthusiastic, and positive. They believe tomorrow holds great opportunities and motivates others to move toward those opportunities.

 2. Adaptable

Hope-filled leaders embrace change because they know change is the best path to their goal.  They are able to adapt to change because they know that change is the fastest path to growth and improvement. Leaders filled with hope are innovative and try new things at the risk of failing. They understand that failure is not final. In fact, it is required. They also know that courage is necessary to reach the goal, so they are willing to step out, to become vulnerable, and to risk change for the overall health of the people and institutions entrusted to their care.

3. Focused on people

They focus on the strengths and gifts of the people around them. They offer encouragement with care and compassion as they equip others to reach the goal. Because they are confident in where they are going and are openly inviting others on the path, they are able to partner with people, engaging their strengths and gifts, to live into the new opportunities and possibilities along the path.  

4. Able to Navigate the Challenges

They have their eyes upon the goal.  It is the goal that moves them forward.  They know where they are going and are able to navigate the challenges to get there. They adapt to unexpected changes, face the unanticipated obstacles, and depend upon the strengths and gifts of others to follow through and to reach the goal. Because they have built trust and credibility, they have what is needed to complete the journey and to reach the goal. 

We live in a time when people are looking for leaders who can make a positive impact. They are looking for inspiration that speaks to their needs.  They want and need a leader who instills hope for the future. 

Your Turn

Take a moment to think of the people entrusted to your care. What is one thing you can do today to instill hope in their lives? 

If and when you need and want help, contact us at transformingmission.org, Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are ready to assist you in becoming a hope-filled leader. Hope is one characteristic every leader needs to be the leader people want to follow.