This has been the most unusual time of my life. I remember Y2K and the big deal about that, the fear it caused, but nothing like today. After 9-11 our country changed, and we now live in a new world because of what happened back then.
Today we are battling a world wide virus that is highly contagious and is not consistent in how it attacks people. That has caused doctors and scientists to constantly adjust and adapt to new information. The amazing thing is that they are learning more and making progress in how to treat this virus. Doctors, Scientists, and businesses are working hard to find solutions. Also businesses and industries have been very innovative and adaptive through this pandemic and have made major improvements in areas of testing, producing protective gear and even manufacturing needed medical equipment.
In church world this has been an interesting time as we have not been able to meet in person for church for months. Again, there has been innovation and creativity that has allowed churches to continue to grow and reach new people, while staying connected with the people already a part of the church. It has forced us to think differently, and it has helped more churches work together to love and serve people. I am actually grateful for this time as it has been a big time of stretching church leaders and helping us get out of our box and into the world.
I believe that many good things will come out of this time of Shutdown and Stay at Home orders. As our country starts to re-open, here are a few leadership lessons I’ve learned during this time that I think will help us moving forward.
- Leaders have to make decisions without all the facts. This has always been true, but with the ever changing environment today, leaders are faced with a lot of uncertainty and yet still have to make decisions. Some leaders get paralyzed and don’t make decisions, or defer to others that are considered to be experts. The main responsibility of a leader is to take in as much information and input as possible, and then make a decision that is best for the organization, country, state, family. The ability to discern, ask the right questions, and trust your instincts are leadership skills that help a leader in times like this. Don’t let fear and uncertainty keep you from making decisions and moving forward.
- Adaptability and Flexibility are keys characteristics of successful leaders. Today more than ever leaders have to be able to adapt quickly to new information, new ways of doing things and learn as you go. Being adaptable means you are not stuck on only one way of doing something, it means you are always looking for the best way, not your own way. Flexibility is another key. To me this means you can change directions quickly, you are open to learning from anyone, and again looking for the best ways to do things and get things done. Both of these characteristics require a good bit of humility. It also means that you have to be willing to take a risk, admit when you make a mistake, or when something is not working and either stop doing it, or change it. Our world is going to keep moving at a high rate of speed and leaders that are adaptable and flexible will be able to keep up.
- A crisis shows the emotional intelligence of a leader. Most people know that emotional intelligence is important for successful leaders. Yet when there is a lot of uncertainty and fear, our emotions can drive decisions. When you are aware of your emotions and can think clearly and calmly in a crisis, you will make better decisions and fewer mistakes. It’s also much easier to be adaptable and flexible when you are healthy emotionally. God gave us all emotions for a reason and the more aware you are of your emotions the healthier you can become.
- Leaders will always be criticized. Again, this has always been true, but it more evident in difficult challenging times. When information is limited and there is a lot of uncertainty, leaders still must make decisions, and will sometimes get it wrong or less than perfect. That’s part of being in the game instead of on the sidelines. There will always be critics, people that push back, question or challenge everything. Many of those people are not in positions of leadership, or if they are they are, they are low on influence because they take pot shots at others after the fact. Leaders have to be able to take criticism and know when to respond and when not to respond. That takes wisdom and discernment.
- Faith in God really makes a difference. Leaders with a healthy relationship with God, lead and make decisions much differently than leaders without faith. That God factor changes the perspective of the leader, and allows the leader to tap into the all powerful creator of everything. For me the most important lesson we can learn in this time is that God is in control, He has a plan, and He is always with us and for us. The deeper we go with God the more powerful and influential our lives become.
- Times like this are always preparing us for what is next. God uses times like this to prepare us for the things that are coming. He also uses things like a pandemic to help us see more clearly what is most important in life. It can reset our priorities and help us make the proper adjustments in our lives, organizations and countries. It also reveals our weaknesses and past mistakes, and forces us to address those mistakes or go backwards.
I know there are so many more lessons to be learned. The key is that we are actually learning and not just going through the motions and reacting as we go. Now is the time to be learning and growing. Now is the time to be adjusting and rethinking. Now is the time to be changing and fine tuning. Focus on what you can control and put the work in there, it will make a huge difference down the road.