Leading people is one of the toughest things you’ll do. Whether it’s your kids, a tough employee or an entire organization, dealing with people is undoubtedly one of the most demanding aspects of leadership. As such, one of the most critical attributes for any leader to possess is perseverance.
If Scripture teaches us anything about leadership it is that spiritual leadership requires resiliency. Consider some of the greatest leaders in the Bible: Moses, David, Nehemiah, Jesus or the Apostle Paul; all of these men faced incredible resistance from those they were called to serve and yet they carried on with character in the midst of difficulty. Our willingness to trust God and remain faithful when times are tough is critical if our leadership is to make a lasting impact.
Perseverance in Practice
The very issues that frustrate us are also the ones that have the greatest potential to shape and define us as leaders. This is why it is so critical that we lean in, listen and learn in the midst of the challenges we face. How? Here are four things I try to keep in mind:
1. Tension to Manage vs. Problem to Solve.
Pastor and author Andy Stanley encourages leaders to ask this question when facing challenges: “Is this a tension to manage or a problem to solve?” Many of the frustrations we face (especially those related to people and their personalities) are not issues we can solve but rather tensions that must continually be managed. Understanding this difference can lift the pressure of feeling like a failure as a leader for not having finally moved past a particular issue. Some issues simply never go away. Figure out which issues may never be fully resolved and learn to embrace them by managing them well over the long haul.
2. Have Healthy Outlets
One of the biggest temptations in the midst of crisis is to cheat yourself: your schedule, your workouts, your family time and your down time. We do believing that we need to meet the pressure (or the crisis) head on… and we tell ourselves that we’ll rest when its over. The problem is crisis is always around the corner and if we cheat our rest or our healthy habits now we won’t have the health and strength to deal with the next urgent issue. Great leaders know how essential it is to maintain healthy outlets to cope with their stress. Whether it’s working out, running, reading, music or a hobby of some kind, you cannot afford to cheat yourself in the midst of crisis.
3. Prayer is the Backbone of Perseverance.
If you survey the lives of great leaders in the Bible and study how they dealt with adversity you will find 1 common denominator: prayer. Nehemiah’s leadership was marked by it; Christ consistently sought moments for it; Paul repeatedly asked for it. Simply put, prayer is a major key to persevering. Prayer pulls our eyes off of the problem and helps us instead seek God’s strength, wisdom and leadership for whatever we are facing. Don’t treat this as cliché! God makes it clear: the leader that prays, perseveres.
4. Confront the Brutal Truth
Challenges to our leadership can often feel like threats and often in the face of a threat our natural inclination is to defend ourselves, our actions and our leadership. But that will only tank your leadership in the long run. To lead well we must be willingness to ask whether there is any truth to the criticism or issues we are facing. To do this we must surround ourselves with people willing to confront us for the good of the organization. Leaders that don’t duck the issues survive longer and lead with greater health than those that do. And teams that are led by such leaders not only respect that kind of leadership but they back it up. If you do this and do it well, soon you will find you have a lot of support fighting the battles within your organization.
Albert Einstein once said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” The principles above are just some of the ways I seek to ‘stay with the problems’ as I lead. What are some of yours? I’d love to hear what lessons you’ve learned. Leave me a comment below…