Over the past two weeks, I have shared information about the challenges of navigating conflicting values and polarization. Last week we left off with “know your values, be honest about your context, and lead people toward your goal”. Sounds simple enough, but it is not as simple as it sounds. I asked you to reflect upon: Being vulnerable, developing self-control, being generous, and showing care. With that in mind, I want to focus on how best to navigate the challenges.
Through a “Question and Answer” format, Sara Thomas and I want to offer some insights to help equip you to be the leader you have been created to be. We want to offer some guardrails to help you navigate the challenges (If you are joining this conversation with this blog, I encourage you to go back and read the two previous blogs, “Who You Are Is How You Lead” and “Who You Are Is How You Lead Part 2”).
Let’s get specific regarding being vulnerable. I have heard friends and colleagues say things like, “I’ve repeatedly been told by family members (and church members) that I’m wrong about wearing masks or about COVID-19. Some conversations have been hurtful. And if I’m honest, some words and insinuations come close to being hateful. You want me to be vulnerable with them?” Sara, what does it mean to be vulnerable within that context?
Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is agree to disagree. You may not be able to be vulnerable with your brother in law about politics or faith. Can you practice vulnerability around your nieces and nephews? Your sibling? Parents? About work? The hobby you’re both learning?
And one more thing, vulnerability isn’t bleeding all over people. That’s a medical emergency. Vulnerability is the emotion we feel during times of uncertainty, risk, or emotional exposure. Know this: vulnerability necessitates trust. To build trust necessitates vulnerability. Where one is lacking, neither will happen. My encouragement is this: practice naming when you feel vulnerable. That’s the first step. Then take a second step.
As I coach leaders, I often see when we’re stuck, we’re trying to address the whole challenge. Instead, ask yourself, what CAN I do? What’s the baby step, first step, or starting point to get moving? Said differently, don’t try and run the marathon before you’ve run to the corner.
I have heard leaders ask the question, “When is enough, enough? How much do I have to tolerate?” I get the feeling there are times we want to just let go and give people a piece of our minds, or to let them have it. Let’s take a current example of wearing masks inside the church building. What does it mean to “develop self-control?”
Self-control is a fruit of the spirit. So, you’re not off base in encouraging it in leaders. And, as you encouraged leaders to remember, “who they are is how they lead” you pointed to values, goals, and current reality. Say more about mask-wearing because I feel like there is a question behind the question.
Tim: Well, let’s take the person or group of persons who refuse to wear a mask.
Sara: Ok, that’s where I thought you were going. But I wanted to hear it from you.
I don’t know that any of us can say, “I am going to have self-control” and it just happens. You have self-control because it’s tied to something that is important. When it comes to disagreements about masks, as silly as it seems to some, people are getting information from different places to inform their decisions. So, in one sense, it’s complex. In another sense, it’s a simple act of compassion and care. Self-control comes into play by asking yourself, is it worth fighting over where you get your information. Or is it more important to love and care for others? If it’s so important to you to be right and that takes priority over loving others, I’d invite you to ask yourself what is your primary value? Then, invite the person with whom you’re in conversation to do the same. Then, you’ll begin to understand what’s motivating the actions. Without that, you’re going to continue to test one another’s patience and at some point, someone will likely lose self-control.
I remember saying to you, “What’s the most generous interpretation you can make of this situation?” It’s a question about one aspect of building trust. Several months later, you talked about making a decision to ask that question. Because we have lots of conversations, I don’t expect everything we talk about to be acted upon. What made you embrace the above question and begin to integrate it into how you lead?
As leaders, we often encounter people who disagree with us, who disappoint us, and who say one thing and do another. Our tendency is to go to the worst-case scenario. Because I was going to the worst place I could go, I asked myself the question, “Is this where I begin as a follower of Jesus?” I realized the worst-case scenario was NOT the best place to start. Instead, I chose to love people as Jesus loves me. That is where I wanted to begin. As annoying as the question seemed at one point, it’s where I start now.
So, it was a conscious decision you made to ask the question, “What’s the most generous interpretation I can make?
Has that question been easy to answer in the midst of disagreements and disappointments?
It’s been a helpful way to reframe what I was initially thinking and to start in a more loving place with people. It is the way I took another step toward becoming the person and the leader God created me to be.
What’s another way you show generosity?
By care and compassion.
What do care, and compassion look like?
One way it works for me is not to dehumanize people. I don’t want to make people my enemy. If I have a disagreement with someone, I want to have a face-to-face conversation with him or her. It is in the conversation that we can find common ground and at the very least connect as humans. What I have discovered is, there are times that the care and compassion I extend to others by listening ends up being care and compassion for myself.
Well, if I make a decision that the person I’m in disagreement with is a child of God, I’m choosing to love one of God’s children. To love that person as God has loved me. At the end of the day, if I’ve responded in love, then I know I have done what I can – whether or not that person ever agrees with me. By loving, I am not only being who God created me to be, but I am modeling unselfish compassion and care.
Your Next Step: Who You Are is How You Lead
So, how are you doing? The question and answers offered above are intended to be a guide for you as you continue to lead during a time of conflict and confusion. Remember, be clear regarding your purpose in life and love others as God in Christ has loved you. Who you are is how you lead.
Let me remind you again, you are not alone. Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.
Check out the LeaderCast podcast and the show notes. This month, Sara and I are talking with leaders about purpose. You’ll find resources and questions to guide you in living into your purpose. It’s one resource you will want to have as you navigate the challenges of 2021.
Who you are is how you lead. Let’s face the challenges of leadership together.