By Jason Pettus
The difficulty with leadership is not that it is so difficult and painful, but that we have such a difficulty with it being so difficult and painful. We would not feel nearly as bummed out, if we didn’t feel so bummed out about being bummed out.
One of the greatest struggles in leadership is dealing with and reconfiguring expectations of it, while we are in it. Jesus said in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Most of us hear the part about having peace. That’s what we want. That’s cool. Most of us hear the part about Jesus overcoming. That’s perfect. We are with Him so we win too. That part about having tribulation can easily get lost in the anticipation of the other two.
What often happens is that we read everybody’s social media and look at their pictures, we read their blogs and listen to their podcasts, and then add our own fantasies and false perceptions into the mix, and the result is expectations that are unrealistic. We figure that John Maxwell, Rick Warren, Andy Stanley, and Tim Keller just showed up and starting talking and writing and thousands of people showed up and read their stuff. It appears that they have it so easy, so we think, if life is that good for them, then surely I should be feeling as satisfied as they appear or that I imagine them being.
But then, we aren’t. Our expectations go unmet and we get upset, but that’s not the end of it. Disappointment is a very real part of leadership, but what can make leadership unbearable is thinking that we are not supposed to be disappointed. We forget that disappointment is normal and we get disappointed that we are disappointed.
If any of us are going to maintain our leadership without losing our hope, we must get our expectations right. We need to be realistic. In leadership, Jesus said, we will have tribulation.
There are lots of ways to experience tribulation, but at a minimum, we should fully expect to deal with conflict, chaos, criticism, and contact:
The group we influence is filled with fallen people who are being deceived by an ancient evil that has created a system of life built on selfishness, self-centeredness, and self-satisfaction. When people do not get what they want, conflict always occurs. To lead is to live with conflict. Everyone in leadership is either about to get into a conflict, is in a conflict, or is coming out of a conflict. Expect it.
The group we influence is filled with fallen people who are being deceived by an ancient evil that are making choices and not all of them are good ones. Get enough people making enough bad choices and chaos will ensue. Not everyone is going to “buy in” to the vision. They will create their own and get others to “buy in” to their version of the way things ought to be. Those who do “buy in” will often get focused on a single part and silos will get created with a different set of values. It will be chaos. Expect it.
The group we influence is filled with fallen people who are being deceived by an ancient evil that want what they want, the way they want it, and when they want it. When things do not go the way people want them to go, they criticize those in leadership. Words that cannot be taken back are then said and wounds are made by criticisms. Expect it.
The group we influence is filled with fallen people who are being deceived by an ancient evil that are now in constant contact with us. There is no escape. There is no distant land to retreat to. The world is getting smaller through technology. People are going to contact us and will inadvertently or purposeful hurt us. Leadership is a contact sport. We are going to take hits. Expect it.
The goal of leadership is not success, as we might define it. The goal of leadership is to fight well, finish the race, and keep the faith. We must fight the good fight. Fighting well means we love well. We must never give up on the race. Our steps are marked out for us and God has determined the length of our days. Finishing the race means we do not give up on God’s calling on our life. We must never lose the faith. Jesus has come and defeated sin and death and given us His life through the Spirit. Keeping the faith means we trust and live in the power of God according to His Word, which is true.
Expect tribulation and deal with it, but know that God’s grace is sufficient.
Jason Pettus is the Senior Pastor of Living Hope Baptist Church in Bowling Green, KY