Find a Delicate Balance

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I have a question for you today: how much of what you believe about yourself is because of what you tell yourself, or because of what others tell you?

I have a pretty harsh inner critic. I’m constantly battling self-doubt and thoughts of not being able to stand up to the expectations I put on myself. I struggle with the person I want to be–am I simply “faking it till I make it” or am I really the kind of leader I want to be?

That’s where good friends come in to play. The people who speak into our lives play a much larger role than we might acknowledge. In moments of doubt and self-defeat, the words spoken to us by those around us can give us life.

But it goes the other way. Countless leaders have met their demise because they are surrounded by people (and refuse to listen to people) who will not and cannot speak truth. We reject their message because it doesn’t fit our narrative, or we don’t enjoy the message.

At the end of the day, we need people who will speak life into us; people who will speak the hard truth in love; people who will love us regardless. But make no mistake: who you surround yourself with matters.

Do you have an old friend to whom you need to reach out today? Do you have a new friend to whom you need to say thanks? Acknowledge the people in your life who make you better. Do it today.

Is This The Hardest Part of Leadership?

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Do you know the hardest part of writing a blog? The consistency of having to write another post. It comes up two times each week, like clockwork.

Ministry is the same. Sunday is always right around the bend (or Wednesday for many youth ministers).

Farming was the same. No matter how many years in a row you planted a seed, the next year it was time to plant it again.

I imagine CPAs have the same feeling. Regardless of how hard you work from January to April 15 one year, the next year you will have to work just as hard.

But in the midst of the mundane, there is beauty. In the midst of the repetition, there is opportunity.

Something a mentor pointed out to me not long ago is what he called the “redundancy of leadership.”

What does that mean? Simple: a major part of leadership is repetition.

Take, for instance, the three questions (you can read about them here). The three questions work great when you use them one time, but they find their greatest impact when they are asked and answered on a regular basis. The more frequently you answer them, the more integral they become to your leadership style and effectiveness.

The problem, however, is when redundancy carries a negative connotation. Who likes getting their teeth cleaned every six months? Or, who enjoys shooting hundreds of free throws? Or, what parent anticipates the excitement of yet another dirty diaper?

The redundancy of leadership means having the same conversation over and over. Sometimes the audience changes, but sometimes the message and audience remain the same.

The redundancy of leadership means yet again casting vision for your organization, even though you did it last week, or last month, or last year, or all of the above.

This week, embrace the redundancy. Find the beauty in the mundane. Excavate the excitement of the repetitive. And, above most other things, hang in there.

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How Big is the Obstacle in Front of You?

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I issued a challenge to my daughter at the beginning of the year. A few weeks ago we started talking about the progress she has made (or not made). As she started listing some challenges that kept her from getting started, I saw an opportunity.

First, let me just say, I don’t spout leadership learning to my children every step of the way. I try to be very conscious of the sheer volume of information I impart on them, and the last thing I want is for them to grow deaf to my voice. But this opportunity was one of the times where I felt like I could speak up.

So, back to the pickup ride. She was listing all the possibilities and all the hang ups why those possibilities may not work. She wasn’t making excuses, but I could recognize some paralysis of analysis taking place. So I offered an image for her to consider: are these obstacles a speed bump or a wall?

Speed bumps are designed with one purpose: to slow people down. Now, you do have some wild people who use speed bumps as an opportunity to create a little havoc in their car, but most people slow down to an acceptable speed, or at least slow down while they swerve around the speed bumps.

Walls, on the other hand, are harder to navigate. Depending on height, location, purpose, construction, and other factors, walls don’t cause us to slow down, they cause us to stop. Very few people get to drive through walls, except for my brother-in-law who did that one time, on accident.

Speed bumps are not meant to stop us in our tracks. Speed bumps are meant to slow us down. In decision making, speed bumps are those things that give us hesitation, but ultimately cannot stop our momentum unless we choose to let them. Walls, on the other hand, stop us where we are. They prevent forward momentum. We can climb over a wall, or break it down, but it takes considerably more effort to do so.

In regards to the Three Questions, some people do not naturally ask the first question – What Needs to Be Done (Awareness). People who struggle with Awareness are faced with the choice as to whether they will allow the first question to be a speed bump or a wall. Will it be something they choose to push through, or will it be something that keeps them from making any progress whatsoever.

For others, the third question (Who Can I Get to Help – Leadership) is the most challenging. I fall into this category. I love accomplishing things, and feel terribly guilty when I ask others to help. So, if you’re like me, the decision we have to make is whether the third question becomes a speed bump that we push through and pass, or does it become a wall that stops us in our tracks.

Today, you’re going to face something you’re not excited about doing. You’re going to have a reason why you can’t or shouldn’t do something. Before you make your final decision, ask yourself this question: is this a speed bump or a wall? Then see what happens.

Growth is a Challenge

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Developing student leaders is a challenge.

It’s a challenge to balance the potential we see with the reality of the moment. But when we help a student realize and achieve that potential, it’s worth it.

It’s a challenge to convince a student that developing as a leader actually impacts their athletics. But when we help a student become a stronger leader on the court or field, it’s worth it.

It’s a challenge to watch a student wrestle with simple decisions because they are torn in so many directions. But when they take a leap and experience the difference, it’s worth it.

It’s a challenge when you have to learn a new personality and admit you had it wrong from the outset. But when they come out of their shell and reveal their talent and skill, it’s worth it.

It’s a challenge when a student doesn’t see the value in the basics of expanding their influence. But when they realize their actions speak louder than their commands, it’s worth it.

It’s a challenge when accountability is not well received. But when they grow from it, it’s worth it.

It’s a challenge when you invite a student to experience a new level of growth, and they politely turn you down. But when they are ready and accept the invitation, it’s worth it.

Ultimately, the greatest reward of developing student leaders isn’t in the easy moments, it’s in the moments that follow the struggle. I don’t know what challenge you’re facing or dealing with in this season, but know that when a student (or adult, for that matter) leans into developing their own leadership influence, it’s worth it.

Will You Carry the Burden?

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I’ve been blogging about leadership for the past 4+ years. While I think a lot of what I write has universal practical application, my burden is to challenge and equip youth ministers to challenge and equip students (and other adults) to become leaders.

I believe junior high and high school students are faced with incredible opportunities everyday to make a difference, but so many times they just don’t know what to do. I believe we have adults attending our churches who desperately want a place to serve, but they just don’t know what they can do. I believe we have people all around us who are simply waiting for permission to step up and lead.

But none of this happens if we as leaders don’t take our own personal leadership development seriously. I cannot lead someone where I have not been. I cannot challenge to step up and meet a need if I’m not practicing the same thing.

And so the ultimate challenge simply becomes: carry the burden. I will continue to encourage you to grow your leadership influence because I think until we learn to grow as leaders, we cannot encourage those around us to do the same.

But the action falls on you. Are you willing to put forth the effort to grow as a leader. When it’s not easy. When it’s lonely. When it’s challenging. When it’s exhausting. When it’s rewarding. When it’s easy. Are you willing to do what is necessary to grow as a leader and to lead those around you to do the same?

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