(Note: This was first written for my church's newsletter in March 2020.)
In January, I started participating in a program supported by our local synod called the Adaptive Leadership Academy. The goal of the academy over the coming year is to develop leadership skills for situations where there isn’t an easy solution--or perhaps there isn’t a solution at all.
I’m still early in the program and haven’t finished all of my homework for the first month, but the class has got me thinking about the leadership lessons I’ve learned from experience, wiser people, and a whole lot of trial and error. They have proven useful not just for leadership, but for life and faith growth as well. I share them here hoping they can be useful for someone else as they have for me.
Be Kind -- Give the benefit of the doubt. You catch more flies with honey. Do unto others as you would have them do to you. However you name it, I’ve learned that treating people with kindness and dignity is the best way to move things forward.
See Every Person As Someone Jesus Loves -- I’ve mentioned this in at least one sermon, but a woman in Bible study once told me she tries to look at every person in her day and say, “This is someone Jesus loves.” I try to do this and it always makes a difference. Looking at people through the eyes of Jesus helps me to have more patience and grace and see possible actions I wouldn’t otherwise.
Participation Is More Important Than Perfection -- I can get stuck sometimes not doing something because I don’t have the perfect answer or don’t think I can do the work as well as others. I’ve learned it is usually better to just do my best with a few mistakes than to do nothing at all. People are often forgiving and are more likely to remember the effort than the mistakes.
When in Doubt, Ask -- I can have a bad habit of not asking questions because I’m afraid of looking like I don’t know. Or I can assume I know what someone wants or needs when I don’t. I’m slowly learning to ask questions when I don’t understand so I can do what is needed and do it right the first time.
Don't Get Defensive; Get Curious -- When there is disagreement, our natural tendency is to get defensive and prove our point, but responding with curiosity can build trust and solutions faster. I try saying, "I'm having a hard time understanding your perspective. Can you help me understand?" or "This seems really important to you. Why is that?" As a friend and colleague once said, "We need to think of curiosity as a spiritual discipline." (She's one of those wiser-than-me people.)
What Does Love Look Like in This Situation? -- Sometimes it’s being active and sometimes it’s just being quiet and listening. Asking this question when I’m not sure what to do helps me put God’s priorities in the picture and focus my options.
There are many times in life where we may not know what to do or have a perfect answer. Those moments can be scary, but I’ve found that if I work through those moments with practices like these, the destination is better than when I don’t.
Move forward. God is with you.
From the Gray,
“All these thoughts are an ocean that I’m drowning in.” -Judah & the Lion, “Over My Head”