In grade school we used to always talk about what we'd do if we ran the school. Usually it included extra recess, no math, and candy bars everywhere. There's a reason why fifth grade student councils don't get a ton of input into things.
A lot of us in leadership do the same thing, except instead of candy bars in the cafeteria we dream of having everything exactly the way we like it. Leadership becomes us imposing our preferences on people -- so we say something like "I'm gonna make them do something they don't want to do, and like it." What our vision becomes for where we serve is for it to look like us and what we are most comfortable with.
But leadership is about being uncomfortable. For one we're never comfortable with the status quo, because if we're ever comfortable we're in holding patterns. And holding patterns turn into inertia which turns into decay which turns into death.
But we're also uncomfortable because we're willing to defer our preferences for what's best. Whether you're serving in a church, ministry, nonprofit or business, leaders are always striving after what's best for the body rather than what's best for themselves.
And that means you'll be uncomfortable at times. It means you'll have to sit through difficult procedural discussions even though Roberts Rules often kills vision more than builds it. It means you'll lead meetings you don't want to. It means you'll repeat traditions and practices you think are silly but the people you serve truly value. In church life, it might be you're not doing the music style you prefer.
Whatever the case may be, if you're not willing to embrace being uncomfortable for the sake of others, you may want to ask if you're called to leadership.
Uncomfortable Defers - When we insist on things being done our way, we turn from servant leadership to at best a benevolent autocrat. But when we're willing to defer to what's valued and appreciated by people, we're not only closing barriers we're building relationship capital. It's the same thing we do in a marriage where we are willing to defer our preferences for the sake of our spouse out of love for them.
Uncomfortable is Patient - You might have something you're dealing with that really is counter-mission, and is an unnecessary distraction of time/money/volunteers. But if you're willing to be patient, you can have lasting impact by waiting for things to die on their own. Often times, if you're setting a good pace and creating a healthy culture, those unnecessary things will starve out.
Uncomfortable is Wise - You shouldn't be uncomfortable over everything. There are some things that require immediate action. If you're in a situation where money is being mishandled, fix it. Don't wait for the people who handle it to retire. If you're in a situation in ministry and there's heresy being taught/promoted, deal with it. But for the 95% of other stuff that bugs us, be wise. You can kill a fly with a newspaper or a grenade. Wisdom is knowing when to use what.
If we're willing to embrace being uncomfortable as leaders, and can be patient for things to work out in a healthy way, we'll see effective and fruitful leadership as the result.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.