On Challenges vs Opportunities

UncertaintyRecently, I was privileged to connect with a political leader.  When I asked, “How are you doing?” His response was, “Not good.  Someone is challenging me for my seat.”  As I conversed, I began to realize that how we see challenges influences our approach to solution.

Stanley says, “Without uncertainty we wouldn’t need leaders.”  If everything was going great and there were no problems in our world – you and I wouldn’t need to do our job.  But it is precisely the fact that there are problems, budget cuts, shortfalls, and difficult team dynamics that you and I are in the positions we’re in.  So why then, do we see problems as problematic?  They are opportunities.

Challenges are times when we clarify and focus.  We don’t abandon our values, we solidify them.  We don’t dismiss our strategies, we lead with conviction.

Instead of pressing pause and erasing the whiteboard and having an emergency brainstorm sessions (granted there are legitimate times for this), more often than not, I suggest we do a gut-check, ask if we’re doing what we believe to be excellent, and press on.

Leadership is necessary precisely because there are problems.  Here are Stanley’s three questions for leading in uncertainty:

1) If you and I weren’t afraid to fail, what would you do?

2) If you were to be fired and the board appointed another person – what would they be expected to do?

3) How would your mentor (or a leader that you admire) handle this situation?

In that moment, you and I may know exactly what needs to be done.  Don’t be discouraged by the challenge, but en-couraged by the opportunity.  Lead.

On Reaching The Next Generation

Child LearningMy mentor shares a powerful story of a pastor who was an excellent speaker.  For several years the church he led hosted a family camp and the planning committee would invite him to speak in the main chapel to the adults and parents.  Other age groups were broken off and each had their own speakers.

For many years in a row the pastor was invited back warmly and enthusiastically to invest and teach the adults principles of the faith.

Then, one year, a person from the planning committee phoned the pastor and said, “Pastor, we would like to thank you for the many years that you have invested at Family Camp.  We are always so appreciative of your sessions.  (Speaking tentatively) However . . . This year . . . we were thinking perhaps . . . of asking you to consider speaking in the children’s chapel?”

To the person’s surprise the pastor responded, “FINALLY!  Finally!  I have been showing you for nearly 10 years now that I can teach accurately and effectively in order for you to trust me with your children.  I would be honoured to teach your children.”

This is a constant challenge for me.  As a husband, father, and leader – I need to remember why I lead – in order to equip the next generation of leaders.  It’s one thing for me to ‘climb the corporate ladder’, it’s another for me to become an expert in my field.  It’s something entirely different for me to consider how I might advantage those younger and ensure they are prepared for life ahead.

James Penner, a Canadian sociologist said, “we need to consider what it might look like for this generations ceiling to be the next generations foundation.”  This will only happen if we lead with the next generation in mind.