4 Tools to Help People Move Forward (Part 1)

Our default is to lead by reaction. We see something we don’t like in people, and then we react to it. We criticize. We complain. We attack. We withdraw. We show our displeasure and hope people will change. That’s leadership by reaction. It’s all too common. We rarely stop and think and pray about situations. We just react to them. This does not do much good to us or to those we are leading.

Effective leadership requires something different. It requires thought and vision. It requires clarity on where we want to be and how we are going to get there. It requires communication of that vision and the path that people need to take. It requires connecting well with the people we want to lead.

But that’s not enough. Leaders also help people move forward on the path. How? The Apostle Paul lists four ways or four tools in his letter to the church in Thessalonica. He told the leaders in that church, “And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (1 Thess. 5:14). I will deal with these in the reverse order. I see the Apostle Paul as telling us: remember it’s a process, give people steps, encourage people to take those steps, and have the hard conversations.

Remember It’s a Process
One thing about reactive leadership is that it is impatient. I don’t like what you’re doing, and it needs to stop right now! This is based on a dislike of what is observed and a desire for it to be different.

However, that’s not really how humans work. Change takes time. If we are going to help people move forward, we have to remember that it’s a process. This is true not only for others. It is true for ourselves. We don’t and didn’t change in a day. Change occurs over time. It is more complex than we often think. We have a set of assumptions that govern our behavior and are wired into our bodies. This can change, but it takes place over time. Continue reading “4 Tools to Help People Move Forward (Part 1)”

Leading from Vision Rather Than Reaction

Leadership by Reaction
And now, Geometry. That was the new subject in my friend’s sixth grade class. His teacher, Mrs. Smith, walked slowly through the class. She stopped behind my friend and asked a geometry question, “What do you call two points on a line?”

Like myself and many of you, he responded, “I don’t know.”

Whack!!! Mrs. Smith took the paddle that she carried around with her and whacked him in the head with it.

Now did he know? Of course not. All he knew at that point was that he did not like Geometry or Mrs. Smith.

Mrs. Smith’s method of leadership is ludicrous, but that’s often how we try to lead. People aren’t doing what we want them to and then, whack! We respond in a way that demands people change immediately. We react by by attacking, withdrawing, or complaining. It is leadership by reaction.

When we lead by reaction, our leadership helps people move forward with about as much efficacy as Mrs. Smith’s whack on the back of the head moved my friend to new knowledge. It’s good to want people to be in a better place, but leadership by reaction is often not based on thought or reality.

Everybody has people or communities that they want to see in a better place. The trouble is that so often we pursue it by simply reacting.

Is there a better way? Absolutely there is.

The Alternative: Leadership from Vision
It’s called leadership from vision. It begins with a vision of where people could and should be. This type of leader then chooses the path that will be the best route to help people get where they need to be. Then, the leader helps people walk that path through teaching, examples, steps, and encouragement.

Take the story of Mike Lanza. Lanza remembered kids playing outside together when he was young, and he thought this was a better place for kids to be than what he saw around him. Like many of us, he was concerned about the amount of time kids spent in front of screens. Continue reading “Leading from Vision Rather Than Reaction”