If you falter in a time of trouble,
how small is your strength!
- Proverbs 24:10 -
And so it will go down in history...to this date, the most stressful day in the Bagnall household in 3.5 years of marriage. Having 2 children was nothing compared to the challenge that lay ahead of us as our household was in danger of being divided for the first time ever. It was the day where Denmark and Australia were meeting in an important World Cup match.
I have to admit, I felt a bit outnumbered. Such a contest in the context of our family would be hard enough (my wife being Danish and our youngest son born in Denmark) wherever we could be in the world but to be based living and working in Denmark made this especially challenging. So in order to take things one step further and embrace the full fire, I decided to head downtown and watch the match right in the heart of where the Danish Patriotism overflows, in "The Tivoli Garden".
They say there was around 10,000 Danish supporters there to cheer on the "Danish Dynamite" in contrast to about 30 Australian fans (that I could see at least)! This was less than ideal. But truly my worst fears started to unfold in front of my very eyes when Christian Eriksen gave the Danes an early lead after just 7 minutes!! In all fairness... this is the moment where I thought "here we go, I think this is going to end badly". Knowing the quality of players that Denmark had in their squad and the fact that they actually have some kind of footballing history, I started to loose hope...
...for about 10 minutes or so. Even though I was in a formidable environment, already constructing my game plan of how to handle the mocking for the next four years, I could see as the game went on the Socceroos continued to fight! It looked they were gaining confidence by the minute going toe to toe with the talented Danes in an epic contest for possession and control of the match. Then it happened...in a twist of fate, with the help of technology and a lot of good luck - Australia managed to ruthlessly execute a penalty and put themselves fair and square back into the contest.
I could see that this really rattled the Danes and as the match went on, even though on paper they are a much superior team they were running out puff, opportunities and inspiration. The match had finished as a draw, but they had lost the mental game. Mental toughness, leadership strength is what managed to get the Socceroos back of track with their World Cup campaign despite being faced with some huge opposition.
Right then and there I was reminded of something that I have witnessed in churches and organisations the world over. One of the unavoidable factors of success in Leadership is internal strength. It is the strength of mind, will and spirit that often separates the posers from the performers. There is no doubt in my mind that everything rises and falls on leadership. Unless there is quality leadership somewhere in a team or organisation, it is virtually impossible for that group to succeed!
But here's the thing...Leadership is hard! If it was something that was easy or came naturally to the majority then most people would find success without many problems. And it is plain to see that this is just simply not the reality.
Leadership requires toughness. You have to be a strong person. And I'm not talking about your fitness and bench press routine. And I also don't mean the manner of how you handle people, with abrasiveness or arrogance. Not hard-hearted, not abrasive or overbearing, not too stubborn to be taught. I'm talking about within yourself and your mindset.
There's no doubt that being a leader, especially in the Kingdom will cause you much pain. This is for so many reasons. I sincerely believe that most people don't take the step into leadership or stay long in leadership because they aren't willing to handle the pain that is caused by being the one who takes responsibility for others and accepting the challenge of breaking new ground whilst trying to instigate change.
THE PAIN POINTS GO ON...
The pain of being misunderstood
The pain of being blamed
The pain of responsibility of other people's livelihood
The pain of having to take responsibility for someone else's mistakes
The pain of discouragement
The pain of loneliness
The pain of producing energy when others won't
The pain of being unappreciated
The pain of sacrifice
etc. etc. etc.
But if you can't handle the pain, you won't hold the reward or satisfaction!
There are so many elements when it comes to cultivating strength as a leader, health and environment can very much be restrictive factors. But sadly I've met many people and heard far too many stories in my travels of people who fell short because they weren't prepared to face reality and commit to going the distance...
3 KEYS TO LEADERSHIP TOUGHNESS.
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.
“Eat and drink!” he says to you,
But his heart is not with you. - Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV)
The Bible also warns us to "Guard our heart above all else for it determines the course of your life"! (Prov 4:23).
It is impossible to live a positive life with negative outlook!
If you can't see the good in every situation, you might find that it takes just one tough season of life to knock the joy out of you and subsequently off the course that you so desperately wanted for you life and team! Life is full of ups and downs, but it's the ability to be able to view life in a positive light that will be the difference of whether you LEAD STRONG or LEAD WEAK. A Pastor friend of mine says that it is the difference between being a powerful leader or a pitiful leader.
I find that among leadership's greatest frontiers is that not only do you have deal with your own personal problems, but often it is our calling to help lead other people through theirs too! This is HARD! As I've said before, one of my favourite definitions of Leadership is: "The ability to take other people in a direction they may not have gone themselves". We have to take a DOUBLE DOSE of positivity, not just one for ourselves, but an extra shot for the other people we lead too.
Taking ground, growing and improving are all difficult tasks that just don't happen easily. They take effort and a constant state of willingness! When I first became an intern in the youth department of my church at the time, I remember finding it difficult to constantly be flexible, work around the challenges and also having to make allowances for other people.
My leader at the time gave me a clear instruction that I still try to follow today...
"PUT YOUR 'CAN DO' HAT ON, JOEL!!!"
Any idiot can state what the problems are, but the people who succeed are the ones who BELIEVE IT CAN BE DONE!!! Regardless if it's hard, if no one else wants to do it or if someone screws up, we have to maintain our position that; the task and vision that we are leading CAN BE DONE!
If we are truly leading out of conviction, if we are placed exactly where God wants us, we have to stay positive. The challenges might come thick and fast, our team might be feeling down, we might have accidentally taken a backwards step but as leader you have to rise up above all of the negativity and....BE POSITIVE!
"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."
- Luke 22:42 (NIV)
I am so glad that in God's plan for us as his children, he expressed himself as a real life example to show us what it was like to be human and to give evidence that he knows what it means to feel how we feel. This example is from Luke chapter 22, where Jesus is in the garden of Gethsemane and he is having a 'moment' where he feels the reality and the PRESSURE of what it is he is facing and needs to accomplish for us. It is REAL and it has to be COMPLETED.
Those two thoughts are the two sobering burdens that often only the leader feels the weight of. They can sit like two bricks in your stomach, the responsibility is REAL and someone has to FOLLOW THROUGH on this and it's ON ME!! Jesus lives this moment, where he asks God in what could be paraphrased "Do I have to, God? Is there another way?" But then I'm sure (in my mind's eye) he takes a deep breath, lets the moment pass and says "YET not my will, but your will be done".
To a certain degree, pressure is healthy. It creates traction, it creates a reaction that can instigate movement.
Engines need pressure to have power.
Tyres need pressure to move at speed effectively.
Hydraulics need pressure to lift heavy weights...and so on.
Not ALL pressure is bad, but I have to be honest, when I hear the word "pressure" and "leadership" in the same sentence - I connect it to "STRESS". Sure, in a lot of scenarios pressure can initially manifest within us as some form uncomfortable emotion. But a wise young business friend said to me one time... "Stress is temporary. It doesn't have to hang around forever, it's usually associated with a moment, a deadline or a certain situation. If you can push past the momentary temptation to cave in and react irrationally, It can be managed".
A simple rule I've since learned to follow when leading teams and let's be honest a major source of it: "People" Is to..."Quickly Deliver Praise but Delay Criticism."
This helps me make sure that I am more constructive, rational and responsible in regulating my emotions when addressing things with people. Some times getting a good nights sleep or leaving it a day or two to cool down helps me not "dive off the deep end" or say something that will cause damage in the long run.
Pressure is something that has to be directed, in order to not crush people but to FUEL them to achieve their goals.
PRESSURE DOES NOT HAVE TO EQUAL "STRESS"!!
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honuor beside God’s throne. - Hebrews 12:2 (NLT)
When writing this blog...like many a long winded preachers, I was tempted to extend the list a little and add a few more "P-words" in there, just to keep the theme going and to get all my ideas out there (and maybe wish that people thought that I was clever?). Words that came to mind were ones like "Persistence", "Perseverance" or "Patience". But the more I reflected on these things, I can see that they are only possible from the basis of the right PERSPECTIVE. Why do we do what we do? Why should we even do it well? Why should I stay strong, hold on to hope and keep pushing towards purpose? Even when I feel like I am the ONLY ONE!!
Because of the JOY set before US! We can endure many things, just like Jesus did, if we stay connected to the reason, purpose and the person we are doing this for. There is so much to be gained by fulfilling our calling and leading other people in theirs. It's just a matter of Perspective, we can go through almost ANYTHING if we can see that at some point it's going to be worth it! We have to remind ourselves that Jesus laid his LIFE down so that others may LIVE and now after all of that effort, pain and faithfulness he is seated in a place of honour beside the Father.
When I pass on to heaven, I want my heavenly Father to speak those words to me "Well, done GOOD and FAITHFUL servant". YOU DID IT, you pushed through, you never gave up, now ENJOY your rest!
To everyone who came out the the Lift Leaders Summits this year. We had an amazing time in both Copenhagen and Frankfurt.
We took the step off faith to add a location with Frankfurt and an extra day in Copenhagen and God did not disappoint us. Many people encounter God in a fresh way and were inspired to go further on leadership journey. Stay tuned for more details and testimonies to come!
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