A Strategic Leader
According to Gallup’s StrengthsFinder my top two strengths are strategic and futuristic (“Strengths,” n.d.). I enjoy dreaming about the future and strategizing various ways to see the future become a reality. Although I appreciate these strengths there is a downside, or basement, to each of them as well. Sometimes I allow my present circumstances to be interpreted through the lens of how my current reality will impact my future reality. For example, there are times when I allow my concern for what something may look like five years from now to get in the way of my ability to simply engage in the moment. To those around me that can feel like I am putting distance between myself and them.
Like most people, I function better when I feel safe in the environment I am in. When I experience stress I feel compelled to withdraw from the people around me, and my ability to strategize, think critically, or be creative decreases. A couple signs I look for to determine my stress level is how engaged I am with those around me, and the level of strategy or creativity in my thinking. To handle stress I feel the need to re-centre. My circumstances don’t seem to predict my stress levels as much as how centred I feel in my relationship with God. My whole countenance changes when I spend time with God. Specifically, if I spend an extended period of time reading the Bible, praying, or going for a long walk while listening to worship music, the stressors I experience go down dramatically.
I never want to lose my dependence on God. The thought of re-centring myself around God and my relationship with him is not something I ever want to replace. What could stand to improve however, is my capacity to remain centred more consistently. While taking the course Leadership, Values, and Ethics last year I developed my Rule of Life.
As I follow Jesus I want to become more like him. I want to develop six traits of a disciple:
- A follower of Jesus is alive; they have been awakened by the Holy Spirit and they pursue a Spirit-filled life.
- A follower of Jesus is grounded; they are rooted down into something that is deeper and stronger than they are.
- A follower of Jesus is authentic; they don’t hide behind a mask, but seek to be true to the person God created them to be.
- A follower of Jesus is enabled; they train to improve themselves so they can contribute to their community.
- A follower of Jesus does life together with others; they links arms with other disciples to grow in love for God and one another.
- A follower of Jesus is engaged in God’s redemptive story for the world. (Friesen, 2017)
My Rule of Life will help me grow and remain centred on God more consistently. Developing the plan is an area of strength, but the real work comes in implementing the practices associated with the plan.
The other thing that could improve is my tendency to withdraw from others when I experience stress. Pressing in on relationships with others in the middle of stressful situations would help me to navigate conflict more effectively, and be more present in the moment. To break this tendency I need to be more aware of the people around me during times of stress, and be more open with my feelings and opinions even when I don’t have a plan figured out.
Mission, Vision, and Values
My mission or life purpose: I desire to live a life that is a creative and courageous invitation for people to engage in an adventure with God so they know they matter.
My vision: To walk in step with the Holy Spirit to create spaces for people to more effectively understand God’s love and engage in God’s story. I will accomplish this vision through:
- Prioritizing my family.
- Assisting my church to align ministries and resources around disciple making and city transformation.
- Designing an environment for unchurched families to better understand and engage in the story of God.
- Developing a hands-on and practical training program to disciple and equip leaders.
As I consider the values most significant to me, I can identify six values I would describe as core values: 1) faith, 2) integrity, 3) relationships, 4) authenticity, 5) innovation, and 6) creativity.
I had a few dreams swirling around in my head for a number of years. My dreams included the development of a children’s museum, a church committed to equipping and supporting families, and starting a school. A couple years ago I decided it was time for me to say yes or no to these initiatives. I was no longer willing to put it off. One of my primary motivations for registering for the MA Lead program was to gain clarity on my dreams and on my future.
There are a few key drivers that will help me move forward in this process: 1) dependence on God, 2) a church aligned around its vision, and 3) strategic partnerships.
A number of years ago I carried the burden of responsibility to make my dreams come true. Part of me received something from that kind of pressure, but it wasn’t healthy. Recognizing that God loves families more than I do was a helpful revelation. I would never consciously say otherwise, but my actions did not reflect my willingness to rely on God’s leadership. As I strategize and dream about the future a healthy dependence on God keeps my motives in check.
From my experience the words church and alignment do not always fit together seamlessly. Like any other organization there is potential for the local church to move forward in unity, but it takes a number of key factors. A church needs strong leadership, a governance structure that includes clear decision making, and people who love God and who desire to see their city transformed. For me to step into my dreams for the future I am aware of my need for a local church which shares the same dreams.
To accomplish my dreams I need strategic partners. I am convinced a team approach is better than a silo approach. For my success I need to have other people involved and contributing.
For the sake of future development I will intentionally let go of partnerships more committed to the past than the future. The gap between the local church and the culture around us is increasing. I believe God is challenging the local church to engage in culture in fresh ways.
I will focus my attention on organizations aligned with my values and my dreams. I am willing to take deliberate steps forward to see unchurched families understand and engage in God’s story. To say yes to that vision means saying no to other things. I will intentionally partner with a local church willing to say no to some things in order to say yes to more important things.
As I learn more about leadership and the strengths God gives me, I am a leader before I am a manager. I will intentionally work to transition more of my responsibilities to reflect leadership roles and less management roles.
I will focus more of my attention on my strengths. I will work to create intentional partnerships, a clear and compelling vision, a strategic plan forward, and realistic timelines for completion.
As I continue forward with the mission, vision, values, and drivers discussed above, there are cultural elements requiring intentional and deliberate effort to actualize.
- As an organization we take discipleship personally. We aim to follow Jesus wherever and however he chooses to lead us. We will experience internal transformation before we try to export something we have not participated in ourselves.
- As an organization our families will know they are a priority. We will regularly ask one another how we have made our families a priority this week.
- As an organization we will intentionally equip leaders by developing those around us. We will shift our focus from being good leaders, to making good leaders.
- As an organization we will confront one another and collaborate in the room so that we can have unity and alignment outside the room.
- As an organization we will place the needs of the city ahead of our own needs.
- As an organization we will spend as much of our time focusing on those we’re trying to reach as we do on those we’re trying to keep.
Old patterns are sometimes hard to break. A few patterns reflecting ‘old economy’ thinking include: 1) my willingness to withdraw from my team in times of increased stress, 2) refusing to let go of unhelpful past events, 3) not engaging more team members to assist in creating a vision for the future, and 4) allowing resources to be spread over too many priorities.
By withdrawing from my team when stress levels rise I stand in the way of potential development for myself and my team. Healthy conflict is a necessary step in the development of a team. For the purpose of developing myself and my team I will resist my default reflex to avoid people and/or conflict in times of increased stress and I will choose to engage with team members. This discipline will result in a greater understanding and appreciation of team members, greater clarity as to what the root of the stress might be, as well as a higher level of probability in creating a helpful solution.
Ineffective decision making and painful experiences can establish themselves as barriers that get in the way of future growth. To take an intentional step towards the future I will remove that barrier by letting go of any residue lingering from experiences from the past. When I or a member of my team reference an experience from the past I will ensure it is done in the context of forgiveness and for the purpose of reconciliation.
When creating a vision of change for the future it is helpful to include stakeholders from throughout the organization who can help to implement the change. I will do away with ‘old economy’ thinking by intentionally involving more people in the process of change management. I will increase buy-in and substantially decrease the amount of time it will take to implement change by involving more people from throughout the organization during and after the vision and planning phase.
Having too many priorities is essentially the same as having no priorities. It is difficult to see a project through to completion when there is limited resources or time set aside to complete it. I will shift into ‘new economy’ thinking by choosing to resource priorities that better align with the vision and direction of the organization. In addition I will work to strategically realign resources not helping us accomplish our mission or vision.
Based on the strategic leadership model found within Becoming a Strategic Leader there are two specific areas for me to develop in my strategic leadership. First, I need to better assess internal and external environments, and second, I need to improve at discovering and prioritizing drivers to move the organization forward.
Asking the right questions and fully understanding the complexities of a situation are essential before you engage in problem solving. At times I was tempted to shift to problem solving mode before I took adequate time to discover the real issues at hand. External environments need to be well researched and understood. What is the real need or problem to be solved? The more fully you grasp the problem needing solution, the higher the chances of developing an effective solution. Internal environments need clarity. Does the organization have the ability to come up with a solution? How well do different parts within the organization function as it relates to the solution needed. As a leader, how do I help them function more effectively? Part of my development as a leader is to spent more time investigating, listening, and assessing before I transition into problem solving.
Discovering and prioritizing drivers is what allows an organization to keep priorities in focus. I greatly appreciate this value as a leader. I can develop in my leadership in this area by determining how to lead the rest of the organization while keying in on a few specific drivers. Establishing and maintaining a short list of drivers with multiple stakeholders while hearing and valuing the input and diversity of each team is a challenge.
I appreciate good strategy. “Individuals and teams enact strategic leadership when they create the direction, alignment, and commitment needed to achieve the enduring performance potential of the organization” (Hughes, Beatty, & Dinwoodie, 2014, p. 11). To realize the potential of an organization a person or team needs direction, alignment, and commitment. One of my strengths is to help an organization determine its strategic direction. An area I am growing in is to help create alignment within the organization to one common direction. As I continue to strengthen that area of leadership, I see the potential impact when a clear commitment is made from each member of the team to move as one unit.
Friesen, D. (2017). Assignment LE.3: Life Purpose Worksheet. LDRS 504.
Hughes, R. L., Beatty, K. C., & Dinwoodie, D. L. (2014). Becoming a strategic leader (2 ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Strategic thinking CliftonStrengths themes. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.gallupstrengthscenter.com/home/en-us/cliftonstrengths-themes-domains