4Sight Blog Post
By Carey O’Connor
When I was a kid, I was afraid of the dark.
What’s under the bed, what’s in the closet, and how fast can I run up those basement stairs before what’s down there gets me?!
For me, it was specifically my backyard at night- and this really bothered me. I was a pretty confident kid who was brave, strong, and courageous most of the time. I really have no idea where this unmerited confidence came from as a little girl with popsicle sticks for legs. I guess growing up in the middle of 5 brothers made me scrappy and unafraid… except for my nemesis… the backyard at night.
The remedy? One evening, I mustered up all the courage of my little 6-year-old self and pulled a lawn chair out to the middle of my backyard. I yelled out to the darkness, “What are you going to do? I’m not afraid of you!” and then sat there until I wasn’t afraid anymore.
Leadership feels like that sometimes. We step into situations where we feel unsure, insecure, even afraid. Leadership takes a degree of confidence and courage to venture out into the dark to make a clearer, safer, brighter way for others to follow. Most leaders, if they’re honest, have the same feelings and questions everyone else does when it comes to venturing into the unknown. Uncertainty - I don’t know what’s out there. Insecurity - I don’t know if I have what it takes. Fear - what if I fail? The difference with leaders is we go first in spite of all these concerns.
Here are 3 principles for navigating with courageous leadership.
1. It’s not about you.
Jenni often says, “Leadership is sacred work.” It is a sacred privilege that God entrusts us with stewarding the people and the work He has put before us. The problem comes when we make leadership about us. We tend to fall into two ditches. The first is to become overly confident, which leads to arrogance, which leads inevitably to proving Proverbs 16:18 to be true- “Pride comes before the fall.” This often happens to leaders who lack the humility to receive feedback and the wisdom to have accountability. In this ditch, we make leadership about serving our agenda and ourselves instead of stewarding the work God has given us and serving the people He’s entrusted to our care.
The other ditch is lacking confidence and dwelling on our inadequacies. We become paralyzed by insecurity resulting in missed opportunities. We become like Moses when God called him to lead his people out of Egypt. “I can’t. I don’t have what it takes. I’m sure there are better communicators out there. I really don’t have the core competencies to excel in this role. Sorry, God, this is not a good strategic plan. You’re going to have to find someone else.”
I love how God doesn’t respond with a pep talk about how great Moses is. He essentially says, “Bro, it’s not about you.” He assures him, however, “I will be with you, I will go before you, I will give you the words to say. I will do it.” Our human tendency is to make it about us, whether it’s over-valuing our strengths or uber-focusing on our weaknesses. In order to courageously lead, we must start with where God wanted Moses to start. It’s not about you. Let’s all say that out loud, “IT’S NOT ABOUT ME!”
2. Abide in Jesus.
Henry Blackaby aptly defines spiritual leadership as “leading people on to God’s agenda.” Whether you work in the church, non-profit, or any other leadership space, as a christian who is a leader we have the great privilege of leading people out of darkness and into light. We don’t have to venture out into the darkness with our lawn chairs all by ourselves. We have the Holy Spirit to guide and lead us as we’re navigating new terrain.
In reality, spiritual leadership isn’t about mustering up our own courage to walk confidently in our own abilities. Courage and confidence looks a lot more like trusting and abiding. We can trust that because God has called us, He’s going to equip us and He’s going to lead us.
In John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Let’s apply that to our leadership. Our job is to steward whatever God has given us- the people and the work. If we recognize Jesus as our source for everything- our gifts, opportunities, and even our capacity, we can draw on Him when we need wisdom, discernment, strength, and clarity… along with anything else we lack in our leadership.
We tend to compartmentalize our lives into things like faith, family, and work. In reality though, every area of our lives should look like an overflow of our relationship with the Lord- including our leadership! It takes so much pressure off knowing that as we live in union with Christ- whatever and wherever God has called us- He will equip us with everything we need to steward those people and places well.
3. Act Decisively.
So we’ve established “it’s not about me” and “I need to abide in Jesus” as foundational to courageous leadership. Now what? Courageous leadership requires action. Our teams want to be led. They want clarity and they need direction. In order to serve those we lead well, we must get really clear on our next actions.
This is more than just a “to-do” list of tasks. I’m talking about decisions that need to be made in order to move the mission forward. Oftentimes, we feel frustration that our organization seems stuck, or that our teams lack productivity or initiative. There can be many reasons for this.
Leaders, the first person you need to look at when there’s a recurring pattern throughout the organization is yourself. Ask yourself, “Are they waiting on me to act? Are they lacking any clarity from me?” Ask your team, “Is there a decision you’re waiting on me to make that will help you do your job better? Are there resources you need from me to help you contribute best to our mission?”
There may be directional decisions that you need to make but have been putting off because you lack clarity. Your next action may be to seek perspective from someone else- perhaps someone within the organization or an outside coach. Courageous leaders recognize they don’t always have to be the primary source of insight or innovation.
Another reason you may be putting off making a decision is because you don’t have all the details hammered out yet or haven’t tweaked the plan perfectly. Is there a time to plan, and wait and discern? Absolutely! The problem is when we delay too long because of indecision or perfectionism. Our teams become unmotivated and we’re likely to miss timely opportunities. The moment your next step becomes clear to you, act. A moving car is easier to steer, and plans can change as you progress.
So what courageous decision do you need to make? Stop procrastinating. Stop making excuses. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom and clarity. Determine the next step today.
What courageous conversation do you know you need to have? Stop creating your own internal narrative. Stop avoiding. Ask the Lord to give you grace and discernment. Schedule that meeting today.
Courageous leadership isn’t easy but it’s such a gift to those around us. Our teams, culture, and world desperately need leaders like you who will confidently navigate out of the dark spaces of confusion and chaos and into new terrain. Be that courageous leader today!
If you are interested in group coaching, we have opened up registration for the Women in Leadership Coaching Group for February 2022. Click here for more info!