Six Ways to Handle Stress

We all experience stress every day. Some days are much worse than others. I’ve recently experienced some stress related to travel that made me think about how to handle and manage the stress we face every day. First our flight got cancelled, then our new flight was delayed 3 hours, which caused us to miss our connecting flight. You probably got stressed out just reading that.

When stress builds up over time it can wear us down, and take a toll on us physically, emotionally and spiritually. When we are worn down we often will do and say things that we can regret later.

Stress is often relatively short-term, and is often caused by feeling that work or home life is out of control. When both of those are out of control the stress feels extra heavy.

Maybe you have a heavy work week with several big projects, causing you to work extra hours, and maybe pushing to meet a tight deadline. You may also be experiencing tension at home with a close relationship, or have some financial pressure that has been building.

Most of the time we have high stress days or weeks, and then days or weeks of lower stress. It’s when those stress days move into months and years that it can take a toll on us to the breaking point.

Prolonged stress can lead to burnout. When you start reaching the point of burnout, your work starts to not seem as meaningful, and there is often a disconnect between what you are doing and what you want to do. You start to feel like you’re just going through the motions, and you can become cynical, critical and adversarial. You are probably experiencing regular mental and physical exhaustion, and you’re finding it hard to rest.

So what can we do to manage stress. First it’s important to recognize the unhealthy ways that we are dealing with stress. Many people will self medicate by drinking, smoking, eating, shopping, binging on something. I’ve been binging on Law & Order SVU, Criminal Minds and Chicago PD.

Next you can start working on healthy ways to deal with stress. Here are just a few that help me:

  1. Exercise/Eat Healthy/Sleep – I put those together because those are all physical things we can do to help with our stress. Those three things, when done in a healthy way, can reduce stress and make you stronger physically and emotionally. You become more resilient and can bounce back faster.
  2. Prayer/Meditation/Worship – I put those three together because those are spiritual things you can do to reduce stress in a big way. I believe in and follow Jesus, and when I spend more time with Him, I feel so much better and less stressed. I also include reading my Bible and doing daily devotions to help prepare me everyday for the stress that is coming. Block off extra time when stress is high for Quiet time with God. Listen to worship music, and sing along. Write in a journal and list everything you’re grateful for. Caring for yourself spiritually builds internal strength, and allows God to make changes in you and through you.
  3. Plan for and take breaks during the day, during the week, and during the month. – Every day take short refreshment breaks. It could be a 10 minute walk around the office, going and getting a drink of water, standing in the sunshine for a few minutes or taking 5 minutes to pray. Each week you should have a day of rest, where you are not working, but resting, reading, exercising, sleeping, spending time with loved ones. Every month you should plan a little extra time for self care, spiritual care or relational care. Plan those and put them on your calendar.
  4. Have honest conversations – Talk to your leader if you’re able to, about the stress you are feeling. Ask for clear expectations, and help in prioritizing your work. Also ask your leader if you have the right goals, and if they should be adjusted. If you don’t have any goals for work or home, work on setting a few and then talk with your boss or spouse. If you’re in a toxic environment have the courage to talk about that, and offer ways that you can help make it better.
  5. Learn the art of saying no, and asking for help – This can be hard, but is a great way to reduce stress. You can say no and still be kind and helpful. It’s also wise to ask for help. If you are unsure about something, or don’t know how to do it, ask for help or clarity. Good leaders appreciate when you ask questions, and you can avoid a lot of stress and miscommunication when you ask good questions. This works at home as well.
  6. Finally talk to a counselor, mentor or pastor – This can help to dig a little deeper and find out if there are things that are causing stress that are under the surface, or buried inside you. This doesn’t mean you are weak, it actually takes courage and strength to go get help, and it will reduce your stress in the long run.

Philippians 4:6-7 is very helpful when it comes to stress. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Psalm 55:22 says “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you”

Jesus also told his disciples to “come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” When they had been overworked and overwhelmed Jesus encouraged them to get away and rest. That’s great advice for us today.

A Leaders First Priority – Vision

Leadership can be difficult, challenging and yet very rewarding. So much goes into leadership, and a leader never arrives or is perfect. Leading people is a privilege, a responsibility, and it takes continuous work to improve and grow.

One of the most important things any leader can bring to the people they lead is vision. So much has been written about vision, but I want to try to simplify what it means.

A leader has to figure out what needs to be done. Leaders get things done through other people. What needs to get done in the business, organization or family that will get them going in the direction you are heading? A vision is a clear picture of what could be, and why that’s important.

I believe every person should have a vision for their own lives. A leader must have a clear vision for their own life, and that often overlaps with the organization, department or group they are leading.

A vision must also be repeated over and over again. A leaders job is to keep people focused on the vision and reminding them how what they are doing is contributing to that vision. Every sale, every phone call, every email, every product, every delivery, every conversation, every meeting, every goal is contributing to the vision.

I work at a church and our vision is to be a healing place for a hurting world. We want every person that comes into contact with our church to Know God, Find Freedom, Discover Purpose, and Make a Difference.

With that in mind, the decisions we make and the plans we make are done through that filter. A vision needs to be simple, but compelling. Easy to understand, yet inspiring to the people.

We really believe that the world we live in is broken, and a lot of people are hurting and struggling. The church should be a place of healing and hope. A place where no matter what your background or experiences you can come and feel welcomed and safe. We also believe that God can transform any life and every person has a soul that will live forever somewhere, that’s why we do what we do.

If you are leading a family, a business, a department, a team, or a group, think about what the vision is. What needs to be done in order to get there. These are such important conversations to have with your team, or family, but before you can do that it has to be clear in your own mind. So write it down, find someone to work with you to ask the right questions and draw out of you what the vision is for yourself and your organization or family.

Every day the leader has to think about the vision and keep it front and center to the people they lead. Vision is the first priority in leadership. Vision lifts, expands and brings oxygen to the organization, the family, the group. So start with vision and dream big.

Four Tips on Dealing with Change

There is one thing you can be sure of, and that is things will change. We are all facing changes, some big and some small. Our bodies are changing because of the aging process, our eating and exercising habits. Our finances are changing based on choices and decisions we make.

The world around us is also changing. People are pushing for their agenda, their beliefs, their values, their convictions. The way we communicate is changing and the way we interact is changing. Technology is changing rapidly. Even what is viewed as right and wrong is changing.

With all this change happening, how do we cope with or manage the changes in our lives? Here are some thoughts I hope will help.

  1. Seek Wise Counsel – This is a biblical principle that helps a lot. For me the first place I go for wise counsel is God. If I’m facing a change, or have to make a decision because of change, I start by praying and talking to God about it. I also read God’s Word. I will also talk to trusted friends and family about the change, ask them questions and even ideas on what to do. For big changes that are causing stress, seeking out a counselor, pastor or mentor can be a big help. The key here is to humble yourself and talk to God and wise people to help you navigate some of life’s biggest changes.
  2. Focus on what you can control – There are so many things that are out of our control. When we start to think about the things we can control it really comes back to us. We can control the words that we speak, the emails or social media posts we write. We can control the way we respond to change and conflict. We can control what read, who we listen to, and the choices we make. Emotions can be hard to control, but we can be aware of what emotions we are feeling. When we do respond in a bad way, we do have control of what we do after that. We can ask for forgiveness, we can bring clarity and ask questions to try to better understand.
  3. Remember what you’re grateful for – Grateful people are much better at handling change. It helps to think about the good things in our lives instead of focusing on the negative and whats out of our control. It’s very helpful to actually write down things you are grateful for on a regular basis. We all need to keep the right perspective when it comes to change. Change can be hard, but it can also be helpful and good in the long run. Remembering what we are grateful for is vital to working through changes.
  4. Get back up – When change hits us and knocks us down, don’t stay down there. Get back up and keep moving forward. Maybe you go talk to someone about what just happened. Maybe you go spend some time with God. Maybe you go on a walk or a run or exercise. Maybe you list out 10 things you’re grateful for. Maybe you go do some research on what happened to better understand what is going on. This is about being resilient, it’s the quality that keeps us going, growing and making a difference.

Change is going to happen, but it doesn’t have to make your life miserable unless you choose to let it. You don’t have to embrace change, but you do need to deal with it, and choose to get better as a result of whatever happens to you.

Ten Principles for Healthy Leaders and Healthy Cultures

Healthy leadership is rare these days. Healthy cultures are a hard to find. Leaders set the tone for the culture of their organization. Therefore, the health of the leader determines the health of the organization. Healthy things grow and thrive. For an organization to grow, thrive, adapt and change it must be healthy. As I think about some of the key principles of healthy leaders and cultures these rose to the top.

  1. Healthy Vision – When it comes to any kind of leadership it starts with vision. A leader that has a vision will lead much better than one who doesn’t have a vision or is uncertain of the vision. A clear vision brings focus to the leader and the organization. A vision points people to a better future. A healthy leader has a vision for a better future and what could be or should be. The vision cannot be about the leader, but about the organization and why they exist. Getting the vision right means getting the leadership right.
  2. Healthy Values – Once you have a vision you also need to understand your values. It starts with personal values and then organizational values. What are those key foundational things that the vision sits on. A healthy leader has a good sense of the values that have shaped his or her character and that will influence the values of the organization. A healthy culture will have clear, and well known values that everyone can agree on, and live out.
  3. Healthy Heart – Your heart is your inner being, what you believe and what you value. It’s where everything flows out of. Having a healthy heart means dealing with the hurts, trauma and struggles that can get lodged in your heart. Healthy leaders do regular heart checks to make sure there is nothing growing in there that could become a problem. Practicing forgiveness and confession are two ways to keep your heart healthy. Our character comes from our heart, so a healthy heart leads to a strong, positive character.
  4. Healthy Emotions – The emotional health of a leader is one of the key indicators of success. The ability to also develop emotionally healthy people in the organization goes a long way to a healthy thriving culture. Just like a healthy heart, it takes self-awareness and an understanding of where you might be unhealthy emotionally. Sometimes it is easier to see how we respond in unhealthy ways like avoidance, anger, and defensiveness. Unhealthy emotions are like warning signs that tell us something is wrong, so understanding those emotions goes a long way to leading people well.
  5. Healthy Thinking – The thought life a leader is one of the most important things about them. That self talk that happens throughout the day tends to drive behavior and actions. Healthy leaders think more positive thoughts than negative. It’s also important to guard what and who you are listening to. The things that you feed your mind affect your thinking. Guarding your mind also helps to guard your heart.
  6. Healthy Humility – A big part of leadership is thinking about others and the organization more than yourself. A healthy, self-aware leader knows what his strengths are, and what his weaknesses are. A humble leader is always looking for the best ideas, not confirmation for his ideas. Healthy humility also means having confidence in your own abilities, and your teams abilities. Not being over confident and not being negative or passive. It’s important to find the right balance.
  7. Healthy Conflict – In leadership there will always be conflict. People disagree, things get misunderstood, people can be selfish and often don’t listen. Healthy conflict is going directly to the person, and asking clarifying questions. Going into those conversations with the mindset of trying to understand the other person. The leader that addresses things quickly avoids the deadly drip of a toxic culture. Listening is vital to make sure you are understanding the other person, and then being clear on where you stand and what you expect.
  8. Healthy Communication – A leader must be able to clearly communicate with the people they lead, and the the community around them. Healthy communication means you are clear, concise and that those hearing understand. Healthy communication is two way, back and forth, so listening well is a huge part of healthy communication. The ability to communicate both verbally and in writing are important skills for healthy leaders to constantly be improving. Not communicating is actually communicating, and people will fill in the blanks if you don’t communicate.
  9. Healthy Systems – A healthy vision and a healthy leader must have healthy systems in order to get anything done. Healthy communication must lead to healthy systems to guide people to execute the vision. A culture that lacks clear, helpful systems will soon slip into mediocrity and chaos. System should be constantly reviewed and tested to ensure they are working as intended.
  10. Healthy Faith – Leaders that have faith in God have an extra advantage. They have access to the creator of the universe, the all powerful, all knowing, compassionate and loving God. Prayer, and time in God’s Word build a solid foundation for a healthy leader. Plugging into God helps the leader in all other areas I mentioned before this. The most important thing about a healthy leader is what they believe about God. In today’s dark world a leader with faith shines brightly.

One last bonus principle is Healthy Failure. The way you handle failure will speak volumes about how healthy you are as a leader and organization. Failure should always be looked at as an opportunity to learn and grow. Failure means you are trying to do something. It’s a chance to ask good questions, make key changes and build better systems.

Lead On and get Healthy!

Lead with Love

We have an opportunity to make some significant changes in this world. The only way that can happen is if we lead with love. To do that each one of us needs to take personal responsibility for our small part of the world.

For me it starts with loving God and growing closer to Him. Then it’s loving other people starting with those closest to me. To love someone you have to take time for them; listen, encourage, pray, serve, forgive.

For people that are in leadership positions leading with love means you develop, serve, equip, encourage and empower those you lead. You care about each one and about helping them be successful. But it can’t stop there.

To make a long lasting change we need to reach outside of our small worlds and into the world around us. We need to look for ways we can love and serve those that are hurting, struggling, or stuck. There are so many great non profit organizations and churches that are doing good meaningful work. Find one and get involved, give your time by volunteering. Give your money to support the work. Give your prayers to help fight the spiritual battle.

It’s so easy to get lost in our own problems and struggles and convince ourselves we can’t make a difference. That is false! Right now you can make a difference, right now you can serve, right now you can give, right now you can pray, right now you can choose to love-even your enemies. Don’t get lost in politics, that is not the answer. Love is the answer and God is perfect love.

Eight Days of Hope and Grace Church are two places I support and serve. Don’t just think about doing something take a step today. Do something that makes you uncomfortable. The world need real people that love God and love people. If you want to talk about how you can make a difference I’d love to have a conversation with you. God bless and Lead On.

Essential Church

I recently asked a question on Facebook “Do you consider the local church to be essential?” I realize that most of the responses were from people that would call themselves Christians and follow Jesus. The response was positive, but I also sensed a bit of confusion or frustration with the church.

I have been in full time ministry for 18 years. I understand that my perspective may be a bit different than someone that does not work for a church. However, I also was a church attender, volunteer, small group leader while working full time for several years before I went into full time ministry. I also grew frustrated and confused about church and stopped going for a period of time. God nudged me back to His church and completely transformed my life.

I see the value of the church, and have experienced it first hand and walked with hundreds of people that have been transformed through the local church. By local church I am talking about any church that believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and that is involved in a local community, whether small town or big city. A local church is a group of people that gather regularly to worship, pray, encourage each other, care for each other and love & serve other people.

The church is God’s instrument to proclaim and demonstrate the gospel to the world, and to usher in the kingdom of God. Jesus said in Mathew16:18 talking to Peter, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

The church belongs to Jesus, He is the head of the church and established the church. His plan was that through the gathering of believers that many lives would be transformed through the good news about what He did for us on the Cross and through His resurrection. Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:10 “His (Jesus’) intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.”

The most essential thing in life is knowing God and believing in Jesus Christ. That is the most essential thing because we are all going to live forever somewhere, either in heaven with God, or separated from God in hell. The church was designed by God to spread the gospel about Jesus and what He did for every person still living.

Of course the church also does other things like care for the hurting, broken and lonely. The church is a place for people to find freedom, find healing, find hope, and then help others do the same. The people in a church are called to share the love of Jesus every day with the world around them. The church was not meant to be a small group to only cares for each other, but that connects with the world, to love and serve others. That is why I love being a part of the local church.

Where I am serving now at Grace Church, we have some God Dreams that I think describe the local church and how it should be functioning. Here are those God Dreams:

  1. We imagine a church where hurting, broken people can find and follow Jesus Christ the Healer.
  2. We imagine a church where every Christ follower is being trained and sent to our neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces to make and multiply disciples of Jesus Christ.
  3. We imagine a church that is building strong marriages, and healthy families in a world where divorce is common and families are fragmented.
  4. We imagine a church where every Christ follower is fully engaged by giving generously, connecting with other believers, and serving others with their spiritual gifts and talents.
  5. We imagine a church with a dream team of leaders at every level of ministry, inspiring, innovating, and taking kingdom risks to advance the churches mission of helping people, know God, Find Freedom, Discover their purpose and make a difference.
  6. We imagine a church where every Christ follower chooses to go on a short-term mission trip in the U.S, or globally to share and show the love of Christ.
  7. We imagine our church tithing 10% of our people to live among the unreached, to share the gospel, and to make disciples.
  8. We imagine our church launching multiple locations in our region as a way of making more disciples, reaching the unchurched, and expanding our gospel impact.
  9. We imagine our church launching multiple safe houses in strategic cities and countries, aimed at restoring hope to vulnerable women and children.
  10. We imagine a time when our Lead Pastor and his wife will be sent out from our church to equip, release, and coach church leaders and church planters domestically and globally.

That’s the kind of church that is essential. I’m so encouraged that there are thousands of churches like that all over the world. So let’s all do our part by being a part of a church like that. Get involved, get connected, find your purpose and make a difference.

My Top 10 Spiritual Leadership Principles

The year 2020 has been quite unique with the COVID-19 virus, the protests and riots, the political unrest and the economic turmoil. That’s just in the first 7 months.

As I look back over the first part of 2020 there is so much I have learned or that has been reinforced in me. I’ve been in some sort of leadership position since I was in my early 20’s. Over those 30 years I’ve learned a lot about leadership, made a lot of mistakes, and had to unlearn some things as well.

There are some guiding principles that have helped me to lead better, whether at work or at home. This tough year has reenforced these principles for me and I hope they will help you as a leader.

Here are 10 principles that guide my leadership:

  1. Vision is Vital – In times of turmoil, fasted paced change and chaos, a clear compelling vision is so important. It’s during those hard times that vision gives people the right perspective, and helps people to focus on the right things. Communicating the vision on a regular basis is also vital. Great leaders repeat themselves over and over when it comes to vision. Consistent, clear communication of where you are going as an organization or a family will keep your team pulling in the right direction. Most people need a regular reminder for why they are doing what they are doing, and why they are part of the organization.
  2. Be Flexible with your plans but firm on the vision – When things are uncertain and chaotic in the world around you, being able to change plans quickly can be the difference between success and failure. The best leaders are always evaluating their plans and strategies to make sure they still make sense and are working. Listening and asking the right questions can really help in knowing when to be flexible and when to be firm.
  3. Pray for Wisdom – Being in leadership means that you have to make some difficult decisions. It also means that you will be criticized and questioned. Asking God for wisdom is a way to gain clarity, check your motives and gain deeper insight. James 1:5 says “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Connecting with God is a huge advantage in leadership, making this part of your daily life will make you a better leader.
  4. Learn to be patient and decisive – This one is so hard, especially for high D leaders. Often it is wise to pray and wait, to plan and wait, to think and wait. One of the keys to great leadership is the ability to be patient and yet bold and decisive when the timing is right. That means you have to understand your vision, your people, your culture and the world around you. As a leader you never have all the facts and you can’t wait for a perfect time. Managing the tension between being patient and taking action is a leadership skill that takes time to get good at. Often it takes trial and error, life lessons and lot’s of prayer to get really good at this.
  5. Seek wise counsel – The people you have around you, and the people that you listen to are so critical for any leader. When things are chaotic you need some wise mentors that can speak into the situation and ask the right questions. Great leaders are constantly looking for the best mentors to help them navigate the uncertain waters and avoid making big mistakes. Seeking out counsel can help you avoid unnecessary pain and struggle.
  6. Make time for important relationships – When things are changing around you and your busy and stressed, it’s vital to take time for family, friends and teammates. Don’t neglect the people around you, plan and schedule time with them to stay connected. Fight against isolating yourself as a leader. Those relationships will nourish you emotionally and strengthen you personally and the people around you.
  7. Find a regular rhythm of rest – This is another hard thing to do for hard charging leaders. Resting looks different for everyone, but find those things that recharge you, and disconnect you from the day to day stress of your leadership. Take at least one day a week off and really rest. It makes you sharper, more likeable and may even help you live longer.
  8. Spend time with God Daily – This is one of the most important things you can do no matter what is going on around you. Daily prayer, reading God’s word, devotions, meditating on Scripture are all ways Christian leaders can stay sharp and focused on the right things. Taking care of your soul helps you keep your priorities in the right place, and helps you grow spiritually.
  9. Pay attention to your emotions – It times of chaos and stress emotions can get out of whack. Negative emotions are a warning sign that something is wrong. If you are getting lots of negative emotions it can spiral you downward into depression, anxiety and darkness. In that state of mind it’s very difficult to make good decisions and lead well. If your struggling emotionally, ask for help. Talk to a trusted mentor, go to a Christian counselor or trusted Pastor. Talk about what is contributing to the negative emotions. You can also work on what your putting into your mind like social media and news. Be careful who your listening to, and make sure you are spending time with God.
  10. Lead with Love – This is all about your heart and what is motivating you. Caring about the people you lead and wanting what is best for them builds a great culture. When it comes to leading with love Paul gives us great advice in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonors others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” You may not have thought about that as a leadership verse, but think about the kind of leader you love to follow. Usually it’s because they are doing much of what Paul wrote about in those passages. At work or at home, lead with love.

Those are a few critical principles that have helped me along the way. Keep working on yourself, because the healthier you are as a leader the healthier your organization and the people around you will be. Lead on and Lead well.

5 Qualities People Want in Their Leader

I’ve been watching what’s been happening in our world over the last several months and it’s been interesting to see how people are leading through a challenging, difficult time. Businesses have been disrupted, shut down or changed in some way. Schools and non-profits have been impacted in similar ways. Our government at all levels has been challenged in unprecedented ways.

There are no perfect leaders, everyone has flaws, weaknesses, and of course we all make mistakes. Leaders have to make difficult decisions, make judgement calls and sometimes take risks in the midst of the uncertainty.

It’s also very easy to pick out qualities we don’t like in the people that are leading us. I’m sure you could list out several right now. You are probably also thinking about some leaders that you don’t like or connect with.

As I thought about qualities that I appreciate most in leaders around me, these are the ones that came to mind. These qualities also work in the home with your spouse and children. Leading at home is just as important as leading at work. As you read these think about how you can apply these in both places.

  1. Speaking the Truth with Love – I appreciate when a leader is upfront and honest and shoots straight with me. I equally appreciate a leader that can shoot straight with me and say it in a kind way. Leaders that are honest whether it’s good news or bad news are highly respected. If they are able to do it in a loving, encouraging way it builds up the loyalty and respect even more. Leaders that are truthful and loving will build a strong team and a healthy home.
  2. Showing Genuine Appreciation – Leaders that show regular appreciation for people, and are truly genuine about it are highly respected. The ability to encourage people by noticing good behavior and accomplishments and quickly acknowledging it is a rare quality. A leader that does this both publicly and privately will quickly win over their team if it’s done with a genuine heart that cares about each person. A leader that believes in the people they are leading shows regular appreciation and encouragement. It takes great discipline and focus to do this on a regular basis.
  3. Expressing Care and Concern – When people know that you really care about them, their respect and loyalty skyrocket. You can’t fake this, it needs to be genuine. Leaders that take the time to get to know you, ask about your family and your personal interests are also pretty rare these days. Walking slowly, listening and remembering, sending a note or a text to see how you are doing, those are game changers in leadership. Those small acts of care build a healthy culture. Everyone goes through hard times, when your leader listens, understands and helps as much as possible, it really matters.
  4. Being Decisive and Flexible – Most people appreciate a leader that can make wise, quick decisions. It keeps things moving and helps people get things done. When you add to that a leader that is willing to change their mind, go in a different direction, and listens for the best ideas, you have a highly respected leader. The great leaders are also quick to empower other people to make decisions and encourage them to be flexible as well.
  5. Humble yet Persistent – A leader that has a serving mindset and is always trying to lift others up builds trust and respect. Combine that humble mindset with being persistent and focused and you have a leader that can accomplish a lot, and has a healthy strong team. You can’t fake humble, a leader needs to truly desire to serve people and help them get better. That never give up attitude is also vital for an organization to survive and grow. These are the leaders that can navigate the dangerous waters of chaos, disruption and adversity and come out stronger and better.

One last thought about great leadership. Emotional health is also extremely important when it comes to leadership at work and at home. When you have damage emotions it comes out in the way that you lead. Before you can improve any of the qualities above, it’s important to work on your emotional health.

One of the best ways to do that is through spiritual growth. Deepening your relationship with God can bring real, long lasting healing to damaged emotions. Working through forgiveness, understanding God’s grace and mercy, and seeing yourself as a child of God are all very important in gaining emotional health. You may also need to seek counseling and sometimes even a medical doctor to make sure you are healthy emotionally and physically so that you can lead well.

We are all in process and hopefully getting better at leading the people entrusted into our care and circle of influence. Make it a priority to work on developing these key qualities, the people you lead will be grateful.

Six Leadership Lessons I’ve Learned During the Pandemic

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Worry vs. Prayer

Big Point:  Worry is focused negative thinking, while prayer is focused spiritual thinking.

About 19 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders, but far more suffer from mild anxiety or worry that has not yet developed into a disorder.  For many people today, worry has simply become a mental habit. Automatically thinking the worse case scenario for the events that happen in their lives.  It’s also playing the “what if” possibilities over & over in their minds.

This has become the normal for many people, however there is a better way and a better normal.  This way leads to less stress, more peace and better health. Philippians 4:6-7 gives us the better way “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

So, prayer is the better way.  Pray should be our normal response to anything that comes our way.  Pausing to talk to God, ask for his help, for wisdom, for courage, for patience.  Expressing our frustrations, fears and doubts to him instead of having a negative conversation with ourselves leads to peace.  It also leads to better health both physically and emotionally.

Read and Reflect:  Read these passages of Scripture several times.  Each time you read it emphasize a different word.  Then reflect and think about what you noticed.

  • Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7
  • “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
  • “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” 1 John 4:4
  • “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find.  Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” Luke 11:9
  • “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Questions to Consider:

  • What do you tend to worry about the most?
  • What benefits would you gain by praying more instead of worrying?
  • What is one thing you could do to remind yourself to pray more throughout your day?
  • When was the last time you memorized a passage of Scripture?  If it’s been awhile consider memorizing one of the verses in this devotional.

What’s Next?

  • Memorize one or more passages of Scripture this week.
  • Focus on Jesus by reading the story found in Luke 10:38-42
  • Make a list of all the things that you are grateful for
  • Build prayer into your daily schedule, with reminders until it becomes normal.

Pray:
Dear Lord,
I need you now because I am full of stress and anxiety. Reading your Word brings comfort, as I ask you to come and take my heavy burdens. I take each burden, one by one, and lay them at your feet. Please carry them for me so that I don’t have to. Replace them with your humble and gentle spirit so that I will find rest for my soul today. I receive your gift of peace of mind and heart. Thank you that I can lie down tonight in peace and sleep. I know that you, Lord, will keep me safe. I am not afraid because you are always with me. Please keep me daily, Lord, in your perfect peace.
Amen.