To Lead–Know Where You Are Going

When I pull up my Google Maps app, Google can usually tell me the best way to go. All it needs to know is where I want to go, then it shows me several routes, including the one that it estimates will be the fastest. I can then quickly make a selection.

The hard thing is knowing where I want to go. I try to use Friday’s as a day with my family. I always want to go somewhere and do a significant activity.

However, I’ve come up to many Friday’s and had nothing. I realized not too long ago that I need to make a list of things I want to do with the family: the Knoxville Zoo, ice skating at Ober Gatlinburg, a day trip to the Cumberland Gap. Once I’ve selected my destination, then it’s fairly easy to figure out a plan to get there.

I think life and leadership is like that. The hard part is often figuring out what we really want to go. I remember asking a woman not too long ago, if you had a week without kids and any responsibilities, what would you do? She answered, “I have no idea.”

She’s like me. I’m often not even clear on what I want. How am I going to have clarity on what is best for other people? How can I lead?

This past week, I was having lunch with another Pastor from our presbytery (a regional group of churches). I asked him, what if all the churches said, “we’ll appoint you pope for a day, and anything you ask us to change, we’ll change in our churches”? What would you tell them to change? It was a hard question to answer.

I mean, there’s a lot of things you could suggest changing, but do they really matter? What’s really most significant?

So often, when we are leading other people, we just react. We see something we don’t like, and then tell them to do it differently. Don’t do that! Do this! Change this! The more we do that, the less effective it usually becomes. The more people are likely to tune us out.

My wife and I were discussing this concept. She said, here’s a bad way to lead. You see the kitchen a mess. You start barking orders, telling people what to do or, worse, just shouting, “Clean!” You end up just taking advantage of the person who is available, which often is the same person meal after meal.

A better way: where do you want to go? What she wants is for everyone to share the load of cleaning the kitchen. It’s not just about getting the task done. It’s about sharing the work and lightening the load for everyone. So, she made a simple list of kitchen responsibilities. One person cleans the table, another sweeps the floor, and so on. That’s better leadership.

One of my favorite examples of bad leadership comes from my previous church and our Wednesday night fellowship meal. For years, we held our Wednesday night fellowship meal at 6:00. Once in a while, we had good attendance. Most of the time we didn’t. We complained about it. We complained about our people not wanting to fellowship and not making God a priority.

It wasn’t until years later, we actually asked the question: what do we really want with our fellowship meals? The truth was that we were more interested in the tradition, in doing what we had always been doing, than in the people. That was stupid.

When we asked the question, though, we realized something. Our goal really needed to be that our regular attenders would come and that any visitors would join them at the fellowship meal. Once we were clear on our goal, then we knew how to get there. We needed to have our fellowship meal at the time that people were there and available, and that time was Sunday morning after church.

Once we changed the time of the fellowship meal, something amazing happened. People came. Visitors came. Everyone was happier. It turned out that our people did want to fellowship. Wednesday at 6 just wasn’t that for most of them.

One more example. I read in a book on preaching several years ago this question: what do you want people to do or think differently because of your sermon?

He then wrote, if you can’t answer that question, then don’t expect those listening to you to be able to answer it either. But if you do know what you want people to do or think because of the sermon, tell ’em!!

Know where you want people to go.

That’s where all leadership begins. People are in one place, but you want them to be in a different place. To lead well, you need to be clear about what that place is. Once you’ve figured that out, then you can find the best way to get there much more easily.


3 Replies to “To Lead–Know Where You Are Going”

  1. Thank you Wes for this very informative topic. I find that I’m always playing catch up. If I’m on top of things, I’ve made a list. But I’m not sure that is the best solution either. There’s probably a book on how to be ahead of what you are doing by making a plan. Thanks again for your insight.

  2. Hi Candace, I think it’s the same idea. We need to be deliberate in thinking through what we have ahead of us. We can use the same principles in leading ourselves. We need to know what we want to do and need to do. In my opinion, the best all around book on this topic is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I go back to the ideas in it again and again.

    Here are the key points:

    1. Schedule what you need to do by the week. A day is too small. A month is too large.
    2. Ask what are your greatest priorities. That is, what do you really need to get done? That could include spending time with your husband, children, or grandchildren.
    3. Schedule the things that are most important first.

    There are other things, but I think those are the most important concepts. I would recommend the whole book, though.

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