Almost immediately, my mind began to take its natural course and to consider vision-driven items for us to pursue. And at the same time, this odd sense of the weight of a “leadership burden” crept in. My confidence was not lacking. Just the reality of stepping into this role.
I must quickly admit that president of our church council is not like leading a mega corporation or even a mega church. We are a group of a few hundred people. But certain aspects of the “weight of leadership” come with any position of true influence.
Here are ten features that I see come with leadership territory.
- Responsibility. Whether one is the owner of a business or is in charge of operations, you agree to take on being responsible for its success. When things don’t fall in line according to your vision or plan, you become the fall guy.
- Risk Taking. Many people avoid risks. Leaders must take them…and live with the consequences. Fear often finds its home in the pressure zone of risk.
- Criticism. Every leader must be ready for critics—internally and externally. Leaders must be bold turtles—willing to stick their neck out and rely on their shell to protect their insides. Easier said than done.
- Dark Tasks. One of the heavier weights of leadership is having to fire people. Or to get involved in trying to clean up messy relationships. Other challenges include dealing with investigations, legal issues, or those things most people don’t want to do.
- Subversives. These are the people who DON’T have a leader’s best interest at heart. They quietly—or not so quietly—work to get a leader removed, or cause to fail. Any power position can attract these types—almost always with selfish and destructive motives.
- Hot Kitchen. Ever been in a commercial restaurant when the pressure is on? Things are flying. And frying. A leader will find him- or herself in situations where cool heads must prevail. And said leader must get everyone out safely.
- Confidence / Arrogance. This particular “weight” must be watched carefully. That inner assuredness that you can do the job—mixed with several successes—can cause humility to fade away. Most people find arrogance so irritating they stop cheering for their leader.
- Nightmares. Why? Lost revenues. Lost talent. Lost sleep. Need I say more?
- Stepping Away. Change will come—voluntarily or involuntarily. Succession planning reveals wisdom and caring. And knowing when to leave requires insight and boldness.
- Folding the Tent. This one hurts. For all of the Atlas efforts to keep the endeavor going, it just may not be worth it. Failure hurts. And it can appear like leadership was weak. Time to move on.
Leaders have another serious challenge as well. When the pressure is on and things are going bad, a leader looks for relief. Too often, that relief comes in tempting forms that revolve around unwise pursuits of pleasure.
In Isaiah 5:11-13 (NLT), we read of those whose lives went down the pleasure path: “What sorrow for those who get up early in the morning looking for a drink of alcohol and spend long evenings drinking wine to make themselves flaming drunk. They furnish wine and lovely music at their grand parties—lyre and harp, tambourine and flute—but they never think about the Lord or notice what he is doing. So my people will go into exile far away because they do not know me. Those who are great and honored will starve, and the common people will die of thirst.”
Instead, leaders must learn to create “white space” in their lives for focus and renewal. They need counselors and a “friend who sticks closer than a brother.” And above all, they need a bedrock of biblical wisdom.
As for my new church council assignment, I’m going to try to avoid calling any “meeting of the bored.”
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Catch “Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand" weekday afternoons from 4-6pm on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life. To listen to the live broadcast or a podcast of previous shows click here.