I had a nickname in high school: Slow Motion. Care to guess where it came from? Well, it wasn’t my speed. It was my lack of it.
I’m a big guy. Back then, I was just a tall guy, but I’ve never been quick. As a result, my lack of speed constantly haunts me. Okay, that may be a little extreme. But you get the idea.
In leadership, however, one of the mistakes we are often tempted to make is moving too slow. This happens for two main reasons:
But, what are the benefits of not allowing fear and ease to cause us to move too slow? Simple: progress.
When we learn to fight against the urge to move too slow, then we start to see progress. We are able to develop more people. We are able to move more people forward. We are able to stand up to our fear and apprehension because we have experienced the other side.
Naturally, there’s a balance between moving too fast and moving too slow. So ask yourself two question: 1) which side do I lean towards? and 2) Does it seem to work to my benefit?
If your answer to the second question is no, then guess what? You need to start trying to move the other way. If you’re naturally a “wait and see” leader and find yourself constantly regretting your patience, then start moving toward action. The same is true if you’re an action oriented person who regularly leaves a trail of bodies in your wake.
There’s always room to grow, but the question always comes down to: are you willing to evaluate in order to grow?
The first football game I ever played was in 7th grade. We were a small school, so our junior high only had one team, and I played the majority of the game. Honestly, I don’t remember much of the game, but there is one thing I think I will likely never forget.
Our running back broke for a big run and was running down the sideline. He had already passed all the defenders and was home free to score a touchdown. Until something went wrong. As he was running, the ball popped up out of his arms.
To this day, I still have no idea how it happened. It was all so graceful–his run, his speed, the ball effortless popping up as my friend continued running. I’m sure there were some issues with how he was running or holding the ball, or both. But all I knew was he fumbled, and it was funny.
I am now just over six months into a new position in a new ministry, and there are some things I’m starting to realize about my own leadership. Today, the first one: moving too fast.
Timing is delicate. Waiting for the right time requires experience and intuition, neither of which come effortlessly. Even someone with intuition learns to trust it over time.
There has been one element of the ministry where I am where I feel like I was running down the sideline and the ball popped up. We were moving along, and I thought I could see the straight path to where we would end up, only to realize the progress may not be as fast as I had hoped.
But that’s okay, because that means we get to re-evaluate and re-calibrate. So often, the element that keeps us from moving at the speed we think we should move is exactly what needs attention in the moment. Address the need, move forward.
Find the balance between stalling and addressing the need, though. Occasionally, some people and elements will resist movement and, dare I say, need to be dragged along. But more often than not, taking a moment to address the feelings in the room and evaluate the direction provides a solid way to continue moving forward.
What situation do you find yourself facing today? Are you possibly moving too fast, in need of a moment to stop and pick up the ball before you move further along? Are you willing to do that? Leaders have to be mindful of the people they are leading and how to help them move forward.
I recently finished a short John Maxwell book (Self Improvement 101) with a wealth of worthy quotes. I thought today I would share a few of those with you:
“Whenever I mentor people and help them discover their purpose, I always encourage them to start the process by discovering their strengths, not exploring their shortcomings. Why? Because people’s purpose in life is always connected to their giftedness.”
“If you desire to be an effective leader, you must develop the ability to develop people in their areas of strength.”
“The greatest enemy of learning is knowing, and the goal of all learning is action, not knowledge.”
“Cultivate friendships with people who challenge and add value to you, and try to do the same for them. It will change your life.”
“Most people don’t realize that unsuccessful and successful people do not differ substantially in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential.”
“The ironic thing is that change is inevitable. Everybody has to deal with it. On the other hand, growth is optional. you can choose to grow or fight it. But know this: people unwilling to grow will never reach their potential.”
And one last one: “Someone told me that only one-third of all adults read an entire book after their last graduation. Why would that be? Because they view education as a period of life, not a way of life.”
I don’t know if you’ve stumbled across Maxwell’s 101 series, but they are quick reads that are packed with challenges and insight. If you’re serious about growing in your own leadership, they are definitely worth checking out. What change do you need to make today so education becomes a way of life, not a period of life?
Football. I grew up in a time before turf fields were readily accessible to small high schools. That meant two things: 1) our main field was grass and had to be watered to be maintained; and 2) we had a practice field.
Now, our practice field was slightly more than dirt. We would utilize every spare patch of grass for tackling drills, just so we didn’t get unnecessarily scraped and cut on the dirt.
Now, schools have turf fields and I regularly see high school teams practicing their game field, which makes perfect sense.
But I realized something yesterday. There’s a disparity between practice and performance. Growing up, I think people expected we had spent time practicing during the week, but the crowd showed up for the performance.
If you do the math, we spent significantly more time on the run down practice field than we did on the lush game field. Why? Because our development in practice meant success in the game.
Let me say that again: Our development in practice meant success in the game.
The same is true of leadership. The amount of time I spend preparing myself to lead through reading books and blogs, listening to podcasts, and seeking to learn from other leaders helps me develop as a leader. My development outside of leadership situations means success in leadership situations.
The same is true with student leaders. Throwing someone into a leadership situation is a tried and tested way to grow their leadership, but if we want their leadership to multiply, it happens away from the situation as we either prepare them beforehand, evaluate afterwards, or some combination of both. Put another way, their development in practice means success in the game.
How are you developing yourself? What are you doing to develop your leadership understanding? Have you built leadership development into your rhythm?
What about those of us who lead students? Are we preparing them for leadership? Are we helping them grow by being intentional away from the opportunities?
I’m a terrible bargain hunter. What I mean is, if I find a bargain, regardless of a need, I try to convince myself (and my finance department) of my need for it. In those moments, I tend to live with an incredible sense of urgency, hoping to never miss the opportunity.
The rest of the time, however, I tend to let things run their course, rarely getting in a hurry. I live by a pan mentality–It’ll all pan out eventually.
The balance between action and patience is one of the most challenging parts of leadership for me. Over time I have seen some problems resolve themselves naturally, usually problems in my realm of influence.
But when it’s a problem in another leader’s realm of influence, their patience and waiting often drives me crazy. Oh, the hypocrisy.
There’s obviously a line between waiting and action, and the *blessing of leadership is learning to walk the tight rope. Act too soon or too often, and you become Chicken Little declaring a falling sky at every turn. Wait too long, and you’re the Titanic trying to avoid an iceberg.
Great leaders know when to act. Great leaders also know when to hesitate. After all, if the answer was to always do one or the other, everyone could master it. There would be no intuition, no mistakes, no nuance.
If you’re like me, you lean to one side over the other. Which side is it? Do you tend to act or tend to wait?
Now, if your tendency is action, is there a situation around you demanding waiting to act?
If your tendency is waiting, what situation around you requires action?
Respond appropriately today and allow your leadership influence to grow!
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