One of my personal core values is strategy. I have an affinity with leaders who employ strategic measures to accomplish their organization’s mission, vision, and values. I tend to see my life in strategic terms. I consistently work to cultivate foresight and discernment as a leader, as a husband, and as a Christ follower. In my experience, serving in both an organization with seemingly unlimited vision but no follow-through (Lepsinger, 2010); and in an organization with no vision, plan or strategy makes for frustrating leadership growth.
This year is the most challenging year of my life. As I navigate the complexities of life, I find peace in seeking God for direction and wisdom to deal with difficult people and circumstances. Seeking mentors to help guide my steps and act as positive sounding-boards is life-giving for me.
In my personal life, I handle stress by engaging in life-giving activities: cooking, prayer, walking, and playing music. When at my worst, I avoid people and spend long periods in solitude. In the professional world, I handle stress by talking through issues with a small group of trusted friends. If a co-worker causes stress, I will address it with them on a personal level.
I want to develop a stronger regiment of discipline to reduce my overall stress. I procrastinate by nature—and creating healthier rhythms for my work and assignments will greatly assist my development. When I am under stress, I must learn to reach out to friends, family, and coworkers for help.
My strength in approaching change in the area of mitigating stress is the support system around me. I have family, friends, and many pastors to guide me, and walk alongside me. My greatest weakness is having the motivation to make the needed changes in my life.
Discussing Mission, Vision, and Values
As a pastor, I often experience a unique cohesiveness between my personal and professional mission, vision, and values. To a degree, pastors live in the eye of those they serve—as Carey Nieuwhof observes, “if you’re a Christian leader, there should never be a gap between your private walk and public talk” (n.d.). As I continually develop in my character, competency, and calling, my mission and vision broadened over time. Where once I wanted to reach people in a specific way with specific skills, I now want to reach people in many different ways using the many different gifts and talents God gives both me and those around me (see Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4). In the areas outside of my wheelhouse, I desire to identify and raise leaders to support my organizational mission and goals.
Seeing people come to know Jesus Christ better in a relational, loving way—through living a life surrendered to God each day.
I am a co-sojourner—walking with people in their lives and assisting in their spiritual journeys. Developing leaders and unleashing them in their God-given calling.
Although Hughes, Beatty, and Dinwoodie (2014) describe strategic drivers as those “relatively few determinants of sustainable competitive advantage for a particular [organization]” (p.26), I do not seek a competitive advantage over and against those in my industry. I utilize strategic drivers to achieve greater potential in my calling both as a follower of Jesus Christ and a pastor. Three strategic drivers contribute to boosting my potential and feed my overall health in ministry.
A Spirit of Life-long Learning
I strive to be a life-long learner—capable of learning from anyone and in all circumstances. At one particular point in my life, I was stuck. I was not growing as a leader or a follower and it was because I stopped learning. I gave up critical thinking and coasted through my life. Undertaking a master’s degree in leadership jumpstarted my life and helped me to get unstuck. I was able to reinvent myself (Hughes, Beatty, and Dinwoodie, 2014) and challenge the status quo in my life.
By seeking out new learning opportunities, I slowly began to step into my potential and move forward in leadership. Being a life-long learner opens doors in pastoral ministry: who desires to work with a leader who has capped their learning?
Leading My Family Well
My family must come first when living out a call to vocational ministry. The work of church ministry is a never-ending task. The challenge I see in ministry is creating margin—attending to the needs of family and to engage in self-care. I prioritize my marriage and my family because I do not want to lose them. My family is a strategic driver in my life because the health of my family either compliments or undermines my effort in ministry. When my family life is healthy, I have the mental capacity to enter into other’s lives.
Cultivating a Servant Heart
Servant leaders strive to improve the lives of those around them and empower people to become greater versions of themselves (Northouse, 2016). As a strategic driver, a servant-hearted approach to ministry creates relational avenues for building up followers. I served on the “set up team” at my church. The setup team arrives at 7:30 a.m. every Sunday morning to set up our entire Sunday experience in an elementary school. We set up everything: our stage, display screens, lighting, chairs, children’s classrooms, coffee bar, etc. Each week, I bring a positive attitude and get to know the people I’m serving with. In seven months, I have been able to create rapport with the team, and people have opened up to receive advice and direction from me.
The posture of Jesus’ heart encourages me: he came to serve and not to be served (Matthew 20:28). I want to lead people by serving them first—whether it is my family, my church, or my community. I desire to see my life reflect Jesus in a more significant way each day.
Abandoning Fear and an Unhealthy Focus on Achievement
I spent a great deal of my leadership journey living in fear. I worked through doubts regarding my capacity to take a position with increased responsibility. One organization I served in the past had an unhealthy culture—ideas and creativity were not encouraged among staff. Enduring an unhealthy corporate culture for an extended period made me feel as though I did not have anything to offer the team. In taking steps to become a better strategic leader, I began to seek out difficult conversations and challenge the status quo in my position—I chose to abandon fear to spur on new opportunities and challenges.
On the other side of fear, I struggled with wanting to achieve a particular title as a Pastor: I learned the necessity for leaders to lead despite a particular title or position. As a middle manager, I made the conscious decision to lead “in place” and build up the people around me—it made my team stronger, and it benefitted me in my need to both learn and grow as a pastor.
- Availability – I am driven to remain available to those around me. The ability to manage my time effectively creates space for developing other leaders and teams. I want to create a culture where those around me feel free to put their families first—but also remain accountable for their time.
- I have time for my family, friends, and coworkers
- I manage my schedule with organizational and personal goals in mind
- I will say “yes” and “no” to the right opportunities
- Generosity – Living life with open hands is a significant value and driver for success in my life. By leveraging my time, talents and treasures (finances) for ministry, I can use what God has given me to assist those around me.
- I manage my resources with accountability in order to ensure margin to be generous
- I hold the things I own with a light touch—providing them for ministry use as needed.
- Health – My core values of consistency and faith guide me in creating a culture of health in an organizational context. I want my public and private personas to be congruent.
- I will work to deal with conflict in a positive and healthy manner
- I will address problems by interacting with people. I will not talk about people behind their backs.
- Openness – I want to cultivate transparency in my leadership.
- I am open to conversations about career development with team members
- I strive to involve stakeholders in making decisions affecting them.
- I value open lines of communication and not hiding my true feelings from coworkers
Refining Old Economy Thinking
In my leadership, I most often subscribe to the old economy thinking patterns of leadership as position & entitlement and hero leader and hierarchic power (Ungerer, Ungerer and Herholdt, 2016). One of the inherent challenges of pastoral ministry is the hierarchical structure of local churches. In most cases, the weight of responsibility lays with the Lead Pastor, and whatever they say, goes. Church staff and congregants tend to see Lead Pastors as heroes. I spent a great deal of my ministry navigating through the political structure of church culture to bring about needed change. I welcome the opportunity to lead differently—as a collaborative leader. A leader who empowers followers and allows them to have opinions, to grow, and to make mistakes. To combat a focus on leading from a position, I want to practice servant leadership and stewardship (Ungerer, Ungerer and Herholdt, 2016)—placing others ahead of my agenda to see them grow.
Improving as a Strategic Leader
Based on my study of Hughes, Beatty, and Dinwoodie (2014), I need to develop my skill in “strategic acting” (p. 49). I utilized strategic thinking and leveraged strategic influence in my organizations in the past—however, incorporating a deeper understanding of strategic acting will greatly increase my leadership potential. Often the ambiguity, chaos, and complexity of situations stifle my ability to act in a strategic manner—whereby I will choose a course of action due to emotions instead of thinking about the desired outcomes first.
Present Strategic Strengths
I find the skill of possibility thinking (Ungerer, Ungerer and Herholdt, 2016) of great use to me in my leadership journey—envisioning possible outcomes in a positive light is one of my strengths. I resonate with Ungerer, Ungerer and Herholdt’s (2016) description of the power of possibility thinking: “Thinking about possibilities empowers us to accept current challenges without being held hostage by circumstances or feeling helpless to change current realities” (p. 10). I found myself stuck in difficult circumstances at more than one point in my ministry journey, and as a strategic leader, I want to open myself up to new realities. I want to establish healthy, positive thinking patterns and channel them through my mission, vision, and values to create new goals for my life and ministry.
Hughes, R. L., Beatty, K. C., & Dinwoodie, D. L. (2014). Becoming a strategic leader your role in your organizations enduring success. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Lepsinger, R. (2010). Closing the execution gap: How great leaders and their companies get results. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Nieuwhof, C. (n.d). 5 [new] character rules every leader should follow [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://careynieuwhof.com/5-new-character-rules-every-leader-should-follow/
Northouse, P.G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Ungerer, M., Ungerer, G., & Herholdt, J. (2016). Navigating strategic possibilities : Strategy formulation and execution practices to flourish. Randburg: KR Publishing