When I coach leaders, I often use the term “Leadership Courage” when I’m trying to emphasize that being a change agent isn’t easy. There are many times when leaders have to make decisions that move people out of their comfort zones and force them to do (and see) things differently then they may have in the past.
But this is also true for the leaders themselves; because all too often, those with influence can just as easily get stuck in one position or way of thinking. Change is often hard for everybody. Typically, people gravitate towards three things:
1. What they’re good at
We’re all good at something. And as leaders, it’s natural to gravitate toward the skillset that you’re best at. That’s human nature. You do what’s most natural; and what you’re good at tends to come pretty easy to you. I attended a church once where the Pastor was a former musician, and as you would expect, the music and singing during worship was flawless. The problem, however, was that many of the other parts of the service, which required a different skillset, were not as crisp and – you guessed it – needed some attention.
2. What they’re comfortable with
This has more to do with avoiding feelings of inadequacy, especially about things that a leader may be uncomfortable with. No one likes to feel unsure of themselves. Sometimes leaders are faced with new challenges or need to lead their teams in new (and different) directions. And, if they’re not careful, they’ll choose the path that they’re most familiar and comfortable with; rather than the one that the teams actually needs.
3. What they like doing
It’s easy being comfortable doing the things that we enjoy doing. I mean really! Why would you ever stop doing something that you enjoy doing – to start doing something that you don’t like doing? Well, you know the answer, don’t you? Because as leaders, we can’t afford just to do the things that we’re comfortable. We must also lead people where they aren’t comfortable.
This is true for many churches today. I don’t know a Pastor that doesn’t enjoy preaching and teaching (it’s what they went to school for and what many of them are passionate about). Give them a mic – and they’re ready to go!
But when I start talking about organizational management, financial accounting, strategic planning, or system documentation; I notice their eyelids getting heavy, or I start seeing that blank stare come over their face, letting me know that they checked out the conversation five sentences ago.
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As a leader, there are three questions that you must continually ask yourself when evaluating yourself and your team, to avoid getting “stuck.”
What’s going right?
As much as you may want to improve, you’re not doing everything wrong! You’re doing some things right, and it’s critical as a leader to take a minute and acknowledge what you and your team are doing well. What successes can you celebrate? What wins can you build on? It doesn’t matter how small, find the good and celebrate it. Remind yourself and your team that you may not be where you want to be, but you’re better than you could be. You’ll keep moving forward if you take time to highlight your successes and continue building from there.
What’s going wrong?
This is the time to take an honest look at where you’re at and identify what’s not working. I prefer to use data – if possible – when making these assessments, that way you have solid facts (and figures) to go by, rather than just “a feeling” and “my gut tells me.” Where are you trying to go – and what’s holding you back? Do you have the right team, in the right positions, with the right training? What was supposed to work, but isn’t? What am I doing that needs to stop? What aren’t we doing that we need to start? If you’re constantly taking the “pulse” of the team and asking the hard questions – then you’ll always find yourself going in the right direction and getting better.
What help do we need to fix it?
Once you’ve identified the gaps that are keeping you from moving forward, you need to determine what help you need to fix it. As a leader, you must have the humility and courage to ask for help. This often means acknowledging what you’re not good at, what you’re not comfortable with, and what you don’t like doing. Many pastors aren’t comfortable with business – and they don’t like it. But you can’t lead and grow a healthy church without sound business systems. So as a leader, you must recognize where you need help and actively work to close that gap.
Not answering all three questions will keep you “stuck” in the same place, month-after-month, and year-after-year. And it’s time for you to get unstuck! It’s time for you to lead your team toward new achievements and stop repeating the same mistakes which are preventing you from leaping forward. Your destiny is waiting – but you’ll only get there if you move away from the status quo and into an uncomfortable place of change.