There are a number of ways I can grow as a strategic leader, both personally and professionally. The leaders I respect most in life are the ones that continue to recognize areas of growth, regardless of their position or experience. In many ways, this assessment of myself as a leader is one of many as I too hope to be a lifelong learner. It is true that “strategy involves change” and strategic leaders must continue to adapt and change to be successful (Hughes, Beaty & Dinwoodie, 2014).
Assessment, Wants, Needs, Strengths and Weaknesses
Typically, I am someone who sees the positive aspects of a situation or circumstance. I am an easy-going person and rarely get anxious when faced with a difficult decision or situation. This is especially true when it comes to the professional side of my life. Knowing my influence and role as a leader, I am often able to keep situations and decisions in perspective, knowing a negative response will affect others. In general, I have a desire to build and maintain harmony among people. In enneagram categories I fall under the 9 label of “peacemaker”. The things bringing the most stress to my life are those disrupting my sense of harmony. The toughest decisions for me are the ones forcing me to disappoint or anger others. Tough decisions primarily affecting me are easier for me to make. As a pastor, there are situations where this is extremely helpful as I work to bring others together, create a sense of belonging and bring reconciliation to situations or relationships.
There are times where being strategic means disappointing others. For example, strategically building a team of leaders to lead a particular group often means disappointing or frustrating other individuals. These are the situations bringing the most stress to my life. I can allow small decisions to take up a lot of headspace when it involves a relationship. Often, I can overanalyze a situation and begin to question my decision if there are any negative ramifications. Disappointing or frustrating others is difficult to reconcile with the concept and practice of Transformational Servant Leadership (TSL). When facing this stress I often look for affirmation from others regarding my decision. Having the assurance from another person that my decision is indeed a good decision gives me confidence to continue with it.
In my personal life, I respond similarly. Relationships are the cause of most of my stress and often my response is to seek others’ help or input to maintain a sense of harmony or connectedness. When I have time to process and reflect on a particular situation then I am much better equipped to navigate the complexities of it. Situations – both personally and professionally – that catch me off guard are often the most difficult for me to respond well to. This means confrontation is often a stressor for me as it can be hard to know how a situation might play out.
I would like to grow in my foresight of situations. Rather than being caught off guard by people’s responses or reactions to a situation, I would like to better predict what their response might be so I am able to face a stressful situation with clarity. This is particularly true in my pastoral ministry. As I am just entering into a new church community, there is a lot of trust needing to be built between the people and myself. The more comfortable I become, the better I can predict outcomes. Knowing the people we lead is so crucial. I also want to become more self-assured in my decisions. There is a strange tension I face because I often seek input from others regarding my decisions. This is helpful but at times I use it as a crutch. I want to develop a better process for making decisions allowing me to be confident in my decisions without relying on the approval of many others. Likewise, maintaining a big picture view of a situation helps navigate smaller situations. This is an area of growth for me as well. And finally, in my personal life I am trying to find a better balance between being sensitive and caring with the people around me, while also not allowing them to dictate my decisions. At times, I give people too much control over my decisions because of my need for harmony and peace within relationships.
A strength of mine in regards to the change I want to see with my responses is I am generally good at knowing how others are feeling about a situation. This sensitivity served me well in the past, as I am able to empathize with others. This naturally builds trust within a relationship, which makes it easier for me to communicate and listen effectively. Unfortunately, it is this sensitivity often creating stress in my life as I can be too sensitive to others’ opinions or thoughts. A weakness I face in my role as a pastor is I am new to the church. Some of the ministries I lead include people involved in a particular way for much longer than I. It is difficult to come in as the leader of a group with less understanding of the ministry and very little relationship.
Mission, Vision and Values
The mission, vision and values I practice come from understanding myself and the way God created me. And yet, at different times and in different places I end up tweaking my vision ever so slightly. As it stands right now, I want to help people flourish in every aspect of life by helping people know and understand their identity in Christ and the gifts that God has given them. As a pastor, this may seem somewhat predictable because often we think of pastors or church leaders as people who are generally only interested in the spiritual aspect of people. I believe God wants people to flourish in every aspect of their life and knowing God and our identity in him is the beginning of that. I talk to countless people who separate their faith with other aspects of life such as work, relationships or big decisions. God wants us to flourish in all areas of life, not just solely in our own relationship with him. When we take our faith seriously it becomes the foundation of all the other aspects of our life. In my work as a pastor I am constantly trying to help people connect their faith to their work and relationships because so often we compartmentalize and disconnect the two.
As for values, there are a few that stand out as crucial: integrity, humility, friendship and trust. When I consider my leadership role, trust and integrity stand out as vital. Trust is the foundation for my ministry and is something that can take time and commitment to build. Without trust my ministry is ineffective. Likewise, if others see a different person on stage than they do in a coffee shop or at home, trust will be hard to come by. Integrity leads to trust being built (Thrall, McNicol & McElrath, 1999).
Friendship is a key value for me, as I believe God created us to live in community. Without a community it is impossible to flourish. We need others in our lives. And we need leaders and friends who are humble – people who can admit their faults, recognize their strengths and not elevate others based on status or recognition again, based on their identity in Christ.
“Another challenge with strategic drivers is that leaders must be in a state of continuous discovery about those drivers” (Hughes et al., 2014, p. 28). The strategic drivers identified here will undoubtedly change, especially given how brief my time in my current position is. In light of that, growing in my self-awareness is a key strategic driver. I am constantly learning more about myself – what work-life balance I need to succeed, what my key strengths are, how others respond to my leadership. During my time in the MA LEAD program I appreciate the emphasis on self-awareness. Tools such as the Birkman test helped me grow substantially. To succeed in my ministry I will need to continue learning about myself, taking time to reflect on my work and identify areas of growth. Getting regular feedback from the people I work with and lead is crucial for this.
Another key strategic driver for me is creating opportunity to try new things. Right now I am quite comfortable leading a small group, public speaking and giving pastoral care to others. There are many areas of leadership and pastoral ministry I have not had the opportunity to explore. For me to know my own gifts and succeed in ministry I must be willing to create and explore new opportunities. I enjoy challenge but I can often get comfortable in a particular niche and thus miss out on opportunities to grow and learn. Creating and stepping into new areas of leadership and ministry will be crucial for my own growth.
The culture I want to develop in my life, as well as in the life of the church I serve in, is one of transparency, approachability and loyalty. Open and honest dialogue creates vulnerability in an organization (Hughes et al., 2004). For people to experience this there must be a level of approachability among the leaders. People from the church should be able to approach the leaders to ask honest and tough questions. This in turn will create transparency and build trust among the people. Further, by committing myself to work diligently and faithfully in the church a culture of loyalty will develop. In church ministry it can be difficult to have commitment or loyalty, as it is easy to jump from one church to the next. For a church to succeed in reaching people there must be a sense of loyalty that is fostered among the leaders which is then reciprocated from the people. To succeed I must exude transparency, approachability and loyalty to the people around me.
New and Old Economy
One of the ‘old economy’ ways of thinking changing for me is my understanding of the church and church leadership (Ungerer et al., 2016). It is easy to think of the church as the place where ministry happens, and church leaders as the people who do the ministry. Yet the New Testament makes clear that church leaders are to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). Rather than viewing church leaders as the agents for ministry, I shifted my thinking and now see my role as equipping others for ministry. I no longer view church leaders as the people who carry out God’s work in the world, but rather as servants equipping others to carry out his work. As Ungerer, Ungerer and Herholdt identify, a positive use of power involves giving power away to make things possible that otherwise would not be (2016, p. 16). The old economy way of viewing church often results in burnout and a responsibility too big for pastors to bear.
Another key shift in my thinking is in regards to success. It is so easy to view success in terms of numbers. Higher numbers can mean a higher impact on more people but whether that impact is positive is not always measured. Rather than looking at numbers to determine a successful ministry I am beginning to look at intangibles such as personal growth, a greater connectedness to God and transformation of character and actions (Thrall, McNicol & McElrath, 1999). These are now measures and markers of success for me in my church and they help shape the practices I do.
One key thing standing out as a needed personal development is my strategic influence (Hughes et al., 2014). My influence is relatively small as I work closely with specific individuals. I would like to become a better strategic thinker and leader so I can increase my influence in big picture issues.
Likewise, I would like to grow in my ability to lead change in an organization. I often feel unwilling to begin the process of change even if I believe change is needed. Growing in my confidence as a leader and in the process of change will help me become a better strategic leader.
A strategic strength of mine is my ability to give direction and create group alignment. I can articulate the “why” of a task or group and can draw people back to this so there is a collective motivation and commitment to a task. Explaining how a specific strategy helps accomplish a specific goal can give direction and refocus a group of people. This can then help stimulate ideas and empower individuals to be creative and effective in their roles.
Hughes, R. L., Beatty, Collarelli-Beatty, K., & Dinwoodie, D. L. (2014). Becoming a strategic leader: Your role in your organization’s enduring success. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Thrall, B., McNicol, B., & McElrath, K. (1999). The ascent of a leader: How ordinary relationships develop extraordinary character and influence. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Ungerer, M., Ungerer, G., & Herholdt, J. (2016). Navigating strategic possibilities: Strategy formulation and execution practices to flourish. Randburg: KR Publishing.