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Unhindered Leadership

October 23, 2014 — Leave a comment

Unhindered.

That’s the last word in the book of Acts, Luke’s account of the Holy Spirit’s leadership in spreading the gospel from Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria, to the remotest parts of the earth. Acts 28:30-31 records: And [Paul] stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.

I’ve been meditating on these two verses for the past month. Can you imagine Paul, one of history’s greatest pioneers, locked down under house arrest in his final days of ministry, chained to a Roman guard (and paying for the privilege), welcoming anyone who comes to visit with his arms and heart open wide? I would be tempted to find those circumstances bleak. But God uses the terms “open” and “unhindered.”

Lesson: Your leadership doesn’t have to be hindered by circumstances or other people’s actions that are beyond your control.

In my own leadership journey I’ve often been hindered, and observed other leaders getting stuck, by some of the following:

  • a poor attitude
  • constant cynicism, criticalness, selfishness, self-pity
  • inability to forgive and release people from past mistakes
  • getting continually (and willingly) sucked into other people’s smaller problems that I cannot solve
  • shifting blame for missed deadlines or underperformance rather than accepting personal responsibility
  • “every day is a crisis” mindset
  • inability to have brief, crucial conversations with colleagues in real time as conflicts arise

By faith, I seek to live freely. Open. Unhindered.

How have you experienced hindered or unhindered leadership?

Ann and I just returned from a much needed five-week sabbatical season of rest, reflection, and renewal. Our two main goals were simply to spend unhurried time connecting with God and with each other. One highlight for me was getting in the habit of sleeping eight hours per night. It’s amazing how much easier it is to walk in the power of the Spirit when one’s body is fully rested. I had been struggling to sleep a full night after so many international trips in the first six months of this year. Key lesson: If I want to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, sometimes it helps to start at the end of the list and work backward.

The writer of the book of Hebrews exhorts, “Let us therefore strive to enter God’s rest.” (Hebrews 4:11). Resting, genuinely breaking away from the compulsions of perpetual work, requires some serious striving.

Here’s a brief excerpt from my journal on the final day of our sabbatical:

Lord, you are changing me. I feel it. I feel it when someone looks at their watch and comments on how they are taking my time and should go, but I can freely offer myself, like I have all the time in the world.

I feel it when I am not hurried to finish a conversation, a workout, a chapter in the book I’m reading, a phone call, a project I’m working on, or a meal. Hurry in me creates apathy and thinness. Ease creates spaces for authenticity, genuine concern, acute awareness, and ultimately LOVE. Remember, “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” (Dallas Willard)

“I feel like a kid in a guitar shop”

When we reentered the world of meetings and email, people’s first question was “How was your sabbatical?” I shared that I felt like a kid in a guitar shop – I am eager, excited, ready, and can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and dig back into all God has for us. That’s how I know I’m refreshed and ready to go. I love this job!

What have you found helpful to enter rest?

Yesterday our Digital Strategies team met for our monthly Strategy Day.

Strategy days allow us to devote longer sessions of up to two to three hours on a single issue or cluster of problems. We seek to dive deep and pray for wisdom to make one or two decisive calls that ensure we stay on track. We mine for conflict: opposing points of view, subsurface issues that tend to fester, places where someone hasn’t truly bought in at the heart level.

Yesterday while mining we struck gold.

How did I know? Emotions began to rise along with a few people’s tone of voice. While this could have derailed a typical meeting, two team members noticed the escalation and invited us to pause, pray, and take a few moments to dig even deeper. Once we ensured that relationships were ok and forgiveness was asked for where needed, we moved on the even more fruitful discovery and decision-making.

It took courage and Spirit-filled self-awareness for my two teammates to lead in the moment. I’m thankful they did. Their actions saved a meeting and allowed us to commit to a game-changing decision that will radically affect the way we operate in the next 12-36 months.

Where have you led (or failed to lead) in the moment?