Houses But No Doors

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We moved into our house a little over a year ago. Before we moved in, we had some work done-a minor remodel. One change was replacing a bi-fold door into our bedroom with a regular door.

Not long after moving in, one of the hinges developed a creak. Being the farm boy that I am, I grabbed some WD-40 and fixed it right away.

Then, over time, the creak developed again. So I repeated my solution. And it worked, for a little while. But the creak seems to always return.

Then I came to a realization. Sometimes the squeaky door hinge is just a squeaky door hinge. It doesn’t matter how much you do to fix it, eventually you’ll hear it’s whine again.

Leadership is similar. Sometimes the people who complain the loudest about one issue are going to be the ones who complain the loudest about the next issue. We can bend over backwards to try to make them happy on one issue, but the issue isn’t the problem.

So we have to decide: do we live with the creak? Do we ignore the issue, or is there something else we can do?

I don’t have an answer today. I’m sorry. I’m still figuring this out.

But here’s what I know. I’m not going to burn my house down because a door creaks. I’ll address issues that need to be addressed. I’ll ask myself if there are changes I need to make. I’ll make changes I need to make, then I’ll move forward with confidence.

And guess what, the only house that doesn’t have door creaks is a house with no doors. And the only leader who doesn’t hear complaints is a leader who has no one to lead.

Welcome to leading people. You can do this.

Finding Comfort in Principles

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Something I do from time to time is return to principles I’ve picked up along the way. Some of them are from victories, and some of them are from struggles. Today, I thought I’d share a principle I’ve been reminded of recently. I’ve written about it a couple times, here and here.

I’ve included a snippet of the post, but I’d encourage you to take the time to click over and read the whole thing. I hope it helps you process some of the things you’re going through at the moment.

Along your leadership journey you will encounter more and more people. After a period in the same situation, you will start to learn more about individuals-their interests, habits, and character.

Then, one day, the inevitable will happen. Someone will do something to disappoint you. They will drop the ball on a project. They will show up late, again. They will gossip. They will fail to show up at all. Any number of possibilities, and they leave you, the leader, dealing with the fall out.

Before you take it out on them, or if you’re like me, take it out on yourself, ask yourself one thing: is this in line with who I know them to be? Do these actions line up with their past behavior?

3 Questions to Help Your Focus

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What does the future look like when you can’t even make sense of the present?

Welcome to ministry and leadership development in the age of COVID. Regardless of our personal thoughts about COVID, things have changed. As a leader, I’m trying to navigate the ups and downs while at the same time keeping an eye on the horizon. It’s not enough to do what I’m doing now, I want to take steps today that set me up for success tomorrow.

That brings me back to one of my favorite thoughts: the horizon of possibility.

As a leader, I feel like part of my responsibility is to cast the vision for what might could be, not just what is. I want the people I lead, whether students or adults, to know that we are moving forward with purpose. And that doesn’t happen if I don’t spend time thinking about the horizon of possibility.

The bottom line is this: as a leader, few people are as concerned about the long term outcome of what you’re leading as you are. So the question naturally arises: are you concerned about the direction you’re heading? Are you concerned enough to do something about it?

Spend some time today thinking about the Horizon of Possibility for your situation. It doesn’t have to be a long and drawn out process, but simply ask yourself the following three questions:

  1. Knowing what I know today, where do I want us to be in six months?
  2. If we need to be there in six months, what’s the first step I can move towards today to help us get there?
  3. Who needs to be reminded about our direction? Who needs to hear the passion in my voice as we take the first step?

Exercise your leadership influence today and bring someone along for the journey as you move forward.

Sometimes We’re Wrong

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On occasion, I’ve been accused of having a decent intuition about people. I can think of two people, in particular, where a few years down the road a friend came back and said I was correct in my first impressions. Unfortunately, in both situations, they were negative impressions.

But for every time I’ve been correct, there are plenty examples of when I’ve been wrong.

I’ve invested in a student to train them as a leader, only to watch them drift a couple years down the road.

I’ve encouraged a student because I saw leadership potential, only to realize I was missing a key element.

I’ve done things I thought would be a hit, only to have them fall flat.

I had a conversation recently with someone about an upcoming event. They were expressing concern about the potential turnout. It was a great conversation, and we left it at “it’s okay to try something.”

Then the event happened, and it far exceeded their expectations. They were wrong, and it was energizing.

The same is true for us as leaders. Over time we develop a certain intuition, and if we’re not careful, that intuition can lead us to carrying a jaded mindset. We expect the worst, then we’re not upset by not reaching what we hoped.

But it’s okay to be wrong. It’s okay to want more and be disappointed. It’s okay to swing big and miss on occasion. The error comes when the fear of being wrong keeps us from acting or from working as hard as we know we need to work.

What’s holding you back today? Where have you been wrong in the past week? Did it affect your attitude? Were you overly optimistic or overly pessimistic? How can you grow from the experience?

Overcoming the Reflex

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Leadership development is a discipline not a reflex.

This concept has been on my mind a lot over the past month. I’ve served in student ministry for somewhere around 17 or 18 summers, and I’ve never had a summer that felt like this. It seems everything is flipped upside down.

And when we park in chaos, our reflexes take over. We naturally default to the things that come easy to us, or the things in which we find comfort.

Planners find rest in planning.

Creative types find rest in creating.

Busy types find rest in busy-ness.

Very few people, however, default to developing leaders. It’s not natural to bring someone along and to empower them to serve. Capable people, especially, have a difficult time including others in their work.

Leadership development is a discipline, not a reflex.

Think of it like trying to lose weight. The only time in my life that I have lost weight without being highly intentional is when I have a stomach bug. When my body is rejecting the fuel I’m trying to give it, I can lose weight without much effort (but usually quite a bit of pain).

My natural reflex is to put my head down and accomplish. I fear rejection, so I default to not wanting to bother people for help. I justify it, and move forward alone.

But that’s not how I grow as a leader. I want to develop those around me. I want the people (young and old) around me to be grow because of the leadership influence I have on them.

But it takes discipline. It takes purpose. It takes intentionality.

Do you agree? Is developing leaders around you a discipline, or a reflex? What is one thing you need to do today to develop someone around you?

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