Leadership is hard.
Leadership can be draining. This is true whether you are leading a ministry, team, church, organization, family, or business.
When you start to lead, you become responsible for more things.
You make more decisions.
More people and things rely on you.
King David led out of character (upright heart), but also with competency (skillful hand). Psalm 78:72 says: “With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.” To lead well, we need to learn how to lead from a skillful hand.
If you thought you had problems before you were a leader, you were probably shocked when you started to lead! The increased number of problems can become overwhelming if you don’t grow your capacity to handle problems and decisions.
When I first started leading a team, I quickly learned one thing. I was not efficient. The number of things (and problems) I was responsible for multiplied exponentially. It wasn't just my life and my problems anymore, it was a whole team and all the problems that came with it. I wasn't efficient enough to juggle the increased load of work and problems. The moment I realized my inefficiency was when I began forgetting promises to those I loved. I can still picture the look of disappointment on my wife’s face when I hadn’t followed through on a commitment, and the sinking feeling of failure that came with it. While I wanted to remember everything, my brain was juggling too many things. Even if I was handling the leadership/ministry load, my family and health were suffering. It wasn't healthy or sustainable.
I decided that I didn’t want to sacrifice my marriage and family on the altar of leadership. If I wanted to be a good leader AND a good husband and father, I realized that I needed to learn to be more efficient and effective.
Is leadership hard? Absolutely.
Is it worth it? Absolutely.
However, when you are in the midst of overwhelming problems, it is easy to get discouraged, burnt out or off course.
So how can you cope? How can you press on? How can you stay encouraged? How can you lead and still have a good home life?
You must become efficient AND effective.
Doing this will expand your leadership capacity. Expanding your capacity enables you to handle more.
Consider what happens when you start or change your exercise routine. The exercises are hard at first, but your body adapts to the challenges. It grows stronger and your capacity increases. The same thing happens in leadership. When you first start to lead you might think: “There is no way I can do this”. But day by day you grow stronger. Your capacity increases and you can handle more. Struggles simply reveal areas in need of growth. You don't stop going to the gym because you can't move a weight. You persevere and start smaller to make incremental gains.
When I forgot promises to my family, it revealed an area I needed to grow: Time Management. I needed to get organized and have a system for remembering many tasks and commitments. I also had to learn how to not overcommit. As I improved in these areas, I could handle juggling the commitments like kid’s dance performances and team meetings, but they became easier and I wasn’t letting my family down. (More on this later in the blog series.)
Over the years, I have faced many struggles and problems. They have all revealed areas where I need to grow. I know I still have a lot to learn, but I hope that my failures and learning thus far can help others on their leadership journey.
As we face stress and problems, we grow in strength, resilience, and capacity. Stress isn't bad. Too much stress without recovery is bad. We need stress and challenges to help us grow, but we need to know how to utilize them for growth. We need to work hard, but if we push ourselves too far we will burn out or give up.
One of the ways that I have found helpful to expand my leadership capacity is constant evaluation. I ask myself questions.
In our ever-changing world, questions and principles help us to constantly evaluate and adapt to face challenges. Questions are not static; they force us to constantly look for ways to improve. Questions can change your life.
Without evaluation, we drift. We begin to rely on our own strength, lose sight of the big picture, and get overwhelmed with too many tasks/decisions.
To combat this, I created an evaluation tool to help me answer this key question:
How can I be more efficient and effective as a leader?
The answer was fivefold.
1. Strength Management:
"Only when God’s power fills us can we minister in a way that brings about true spiritual change. We must stay connected to the source, the spring and fountain of life. As soon as we are cut off from the source of water, we run dry." - Overflowing
If we depend on our strength for results, then we will not be effective because our strength can accomplish nothing. If we draw our strength from the right source, it forms the foundation on which all the other areas build.
2. Focus Management:
“Focus is why a river has more force than a swamp."
- 7 Practices of Effective Ministry
If we don't focus on what is most important, then we will be spread too thin to make any lasting change. If we focus our limited resources on the best things, change happens.
3. Time Management:
"Add 50 percent to your time estimate."
If we have no margin, life becomes a flurry of activity. If we add margin, we can be fully present for each task and relationship.
4. Energy Management:
“Steward your energy: A leader’s greatest asset is not necessarily time. It is energy. A person with energy can accomplish more in four hours than another would in four days.”
- Leading on Empty
If we are not careful, our energy gets used on trivial things, and we have nothing left for what truly matters. If we invest our limited energy wisely, we will have the endurance to tackle important tasks.
5. Mindset Management:
"Behind mountains are more mountains."
- Haitian Proverb
If “no problems” or “maintain status quo” is your goal, leadership is the wrong role. These mindsets set you up for failure and constant disappointment. If we change our mindset and perspective on problems, it empowers us to face greater and greater obstacles with calm courage rather than fear.
To be truly efficient and effective, we need to manage each of these areas.
Over the next few blog posts, I will unpack each of these five areas.
We will look at practical ways to improve and helpful questions to evaluate your decisions.
These practices and questions have changed my life; I pray they will do the same for you!
They have made leadership far more enjoyable and sustainable by helping me to first lead myself, and then lead others. They will help you lead with a “skillful hand”.
May you be a wise steward of your time and energy as you serve the Lord!
Where can you start?
1. Reflect on the 5 areas. Which area needs the most growth right now?
Until you know how you need to change, you will continue to have the same results.
2. What could you start doing today to improve in that area?
Good intentions are no better than no intentions. Make a plan. Work the plan.
Who else could you encourage with this post?
More to follow...
This blog is part of a series that will unpack how to work smarter and do more in your work or ministry. It will help you be more effective and efficient in life and leadership.
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We will keep you up to date.
Thanks for your involvement in the ministry!