Of Course It’s a Tough Job

As I continue to wade through my notes from the past, I came across another talk full of nuggets. This is a talk from John Ortberg way from the Global Leadership Summit of 2002. Now this is a talk he gave on the seduction of a leader and there were some great one-liners in there that caught my attention as I reviewed this and wanted to highlight both for myself and for you.

He started by asking the question, when does God in scripture ever give anyone an easy job? It’s funny that we sometimes think when stuff is tough, we must be not where we’re supposed to be. But when you’re in leadership, it’s going to be tough and it’s going to be ideally over your head. You’re going to be facing things that you can’t handle in your own strength, which is actually the way it is when God calls us to something. A quote from Max Dupree, “Never insult anyone by giving them an easy job.” Again, the whole point in leadership, God doesn’t give easy tasks.

Ortberg continued his talk by highlighting some of the temptations that leaders can face as we work in these challenging roles. He talks about us being risk-takers and action oriented and how we can drift into actually taking risks for the sake of taking risks, getting bored and taking risks. This can lead even to immorality and things like that and how we need to guard against that.

Some leaders just want to bring change for the sake of change that isn’t part of a larger plan. It’s just change because we’re bored and we’ve got to guard against that. We need to surround ourselves with people who will speak the truth to us and challenge us. Jack Trout has a quote, “Praise, honest information.” The higher up you get in leadership, the harder it is to get people to tell the truth to you, so when people do and they challenge you, you really need to pay attention.

Another danger Ortberg mentions for leaders is that we might have superb verbal skills and mastery of words, and can be guilty of misusing words and hurting people. To counterbalance this, we actually just need to shut up from time to time, and observe the discipline of silence and not talking so much.

If you’re leading a team and your voice dominates team meetings, maybe you need to pull back. My working definition of an effective team is that a good and effective team is a diverse group of specialists united by trust and by a challenge that calls for their best. If you’ve got a good team, most of the people on the team are better than you at something and that calls us as leaders to be quiet.

Another challenge that Ortberg points out is the whole issue of strategic thinking. Part of leadership is having a dissatisfaction with the way things are. We get to thinking and planning and trying to address stuff. The danger is that if you’re into strategic thinking, you may be strategically serving yourself or strategically promoting yourself. The counterbalance is strategic acts of servanthood, a willingness to be invisible, a willingness to be interrupted and not make it all about your plan.

Another challenge is passion and a sense of urgency, and remembering that we can have our passions go in the wrong direction. Again, there’s sexual implications here and we’ve got to make sure we have an outlet for our passions. Ideally we will have something we’re passionate about outside of our role, outside of ministry.

Some of the things I’m passionate about are canoeing, cross country skiing, hunting and, increasingly to my surprise, hiking. I just enjoy getting outside and doing that stuff because it rejuvenates me in a way distinct from the ministry. It pulls me back and it gets to be away from the crowd. That’s one of the things I know for me personally that helps immensely.

When I was in the Arrow leadership and the big 360 evaluation they have you do, one of the take homes for me from that massive evaluation was that I was supposed to get outside more. They looked at me and said, you need to get outside more. It’s been something that I’ve often felt guilty about because I love it so much and yet it’s so renewing. As I’m going along this journey, I’m learning that self care is part of the calling.

So anyway, just a few nuggets there. Back to the original thought: when has God in scripture ever given someone an easy job? If you’re a leader, he’s gifted you and called you to do difficult things; things that maybe the others around you are not gifted for. He’s given you insight. Run with that, but do it by drawing on His own strength and guarding against some of these challenges that I think Ortberg so well identified for us.

Have an outstanding day and outstanding season. God bless, press on.

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