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?

Heart Check

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Words reveal intent. Actions reveal heart.

I worked up that phrase a few years back, and it’s something I return to regularly to both wrestle with it’s validity and to check my heart in the process.

You see, I think we say things we want to do. We want to eat better, exercise more, be a better friend, and be more dependable. All of those are things we intend to do.

But at the end of the day, after that third serving of supper, our actions reveal things about us we may not be ready or willing to accept.

The same is true in developing leaders around us. We know we should do a better job. We say we should do a better job. But, when push comes to shove, our actions reveal something different.

This summer for student ministry is unlike anything we have ever experienced. I know so many ministries who are having to completely audible what would have been and move in a different direction.

But I have one plea. Don’t let leadership development get pushed to the side.

Developing leaders is not an easy task. I love what we’ve been able to do each summer at camp with our Horizon Leadership Camp, but in the absence of camp, I am going to spend brain energy deciding how to work leadership development into what I’m doing.

After all, I can say developing student leaders is important. But if I’m not taking steps to help students grow, do my actions line up with my intent?

Dream a little today about what leadership development could look like this summer. Put some thought into it, and then do it. You can do this!

Leaders Set the Pace

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I’m a thinker. I think about options constantly. It could be options for an event. Options for guitars. Options for meals, or grilling, or yard work, or house work. I’ve jokingly said in the past that I spend about 90% of the time thinking about things and only 10% doing.

One upside when I finally do something is I’ve thought through it and have a good idea of what I want to do, and usually trust that it’s going to be pretty good.

So years ago I had to learn a pretty hard lesson. Change stimulates grief. Even for me, as a leader. I grieve the loss of what was comfortable and normal. But by the time I’ve acted on it, I had already processed my grief and am ready to move forward. But, as a leader, I was wrong.

Leading organizational change isn’t like changing shampoo. If I switch to another shampoo, you have no emotional attachment to the level of hair care I provide myself, aside from excessive dandruff.

But if I am changing something that’s known and comfortable, the process gets sticky. There needs to be space for grief before we can move forward.

I realized it when I led a previous church to separate middle school and high school for a season.

It’s happening now with changes due to COVID.

Just because I’ve spent days and weeks thinking about the change and the implementation of the change, doesn’t mean everyone else has. And if people don’t get the benefit of grieving change, they are going to be more resistant (even hostile).

That’s why our job as a leader is to set the pace. If we get too far in front, we leave everyone behind. If we move too slow, no one stays with us.

As you lead change during this time (or any time), remember to set the pace. Just because you’ve spent countless hours thinking about it, do not assume the people you’re leading have. Help them process the grief of loss, but set a healthy forward pace.

Because at the end of the day, if we outrun the people running with us, we stop being a leader.

Multiplication vs Addition

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Open your text books chapter 2 section 1. Today we are going to talk about multiplication.

Just kidding, kind of. The math concepts that come to mind apply to leadership as well. Would you rather be given $100 plus $100 or be given $100 times 100?

As we seek to develop leaders, we’re not looking to just add leaders. We are looking to add leaders who add leaders. I want to develop students who in turn develop students.

If developing students who develop students is my goal, then my approach is different. My training doesn’t only center on the tasks of a leader, but on the tasks of a leader and how to train others to fulfill the tasks of a leader.

So how do we do this?

  1. Begin with multiplication in mind. Sure, some of the best development comes from places we never anticipated, but if we know we want to multiply in the end, how we begin changes. We don’t accept just anyone. We set a higher bar. We encourage commitment. We encourage but don’t coerce.
  2. Keep multiplication in mind. Relational investment plays such an integral part in multiplication. We cannot expect someone to grow if we do not understand where they need to grow. That’s where relationship comes in. Get to know those you lead.
  3. Model multiplication. Continue to invest in and grow leaders. Do not stop with one or two. When it gets difficult, push through. When it becomes a challenge, keep going. Model the behavior you want to see repeated, and it will be repeated.

I love investing in students. I love the conversations we get to have as a result of the time we spend together. But, at the end of the day, my influence is greater as I learn to multiply. Yours will be as well.

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