Tension Between To and For

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Tension: Love it or hate it, but we need it

When present, we get massages, see therapists, take hot showers, try things to relax, go on vacation, etc. But to be clear, that is not the kind of tension I am writing about. The tension I am writing about is a necessary part of life. How do I know this? Because some of our favorite songs have tension, but instrumental tension. The great guitarists of our time, are great because the strings they play are held in perfection tension. How about our morning or afternoon routine? That favorite “cup o’ jo” is only your favorite because it tastes so delicious. You only know what it tastes like because your muscles experience tension when picking up the cup and sipping it.

As a leader of an organization I often struggle finding the pitch in the midst of a paradox. For example, many years ago I had a leader tell me, “Lance, you are not responsible FOR people, but you are responsible TO people.” I’m not sure I loved that idea, as much I loved the potential of that idea. What was the potential I saw? Freedom. Peace. A restful night’s sleep. Upgraded trust in God. Empowering others. Not feeling powerless.

David’s Paradoxial Leadership

Sure, it’s easier to view life through a paradigm, but truth is often seen more clearly, when viewed as a paradox, which by it’s very definition is tension. For many years I loved, lived and led as if I was responsible FOR people instead of simply being responsible TO them. This “string of wisdom” is captured in Psalm 78:72. The New American Standard Bible puts it this way, “So he (King David) shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, And guided them with skillful hands.” This is more than a “Maxwellian Leadership Proverb” this is a central truth to how Dr. Luke described the way David’s lived. Luke says in Acts 13:36, “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay.” Because David found the “string of wisdom” held between these two points, Character & Competency, he fulfilled the purpose of God in his own generation. Clearly, there are other areas of David’s life that we could write about which contributed to him successfully fulfilling his divine assignment, but I want to focus on these two.

The String of Wisdom

So how do I be responsible TO others, instead of FOR others? Far too many leaders work on their character. They live with above reproach, with unquestionable values and discipline. Yet, their core competencies may lack and/or they may not be aware of their core strengths. The opposite is true as well. We have leaders who are so “strength focused” that they lack the moral authority to lead anyone. So what do we do? How do we fine tune our leadership so the sound of our loving, leading and living is pleasing to those who are following us? Answer these questions.

1. Who am I? 

Character is not an identity discovery, but an identity demonstration. Knowing who you are starts with a dialogue with God about who HE is, thus discovering who you are. Knowing who you are will help you develop character that harnesses your opportunity to fulfill your purpose, for your generation.

2. Who are you? 

Ask God to help you see others the way he sees them. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5 that the only legal way to view others is from a heavenly perspective. Do not treat or relate to people according to their sins and failure, but relate to them according their identity.

3. How do I grow in character? 

Live in the light because powerful fellowship happens in the light. Practice vulnerability. Be vulnerable to the goodness of God. Walk with others. Let them have access to your heart so they can champion who you are becoming and challenge you when you live outside of your God given identity.

4. How do I strengthen my skills? 

John Maxwell has written dozens of books on these subjects. That being said, Jesus was a master at people skills, leadership and ministry skills. While I am a proponent of utilizing resources, don’t forget the greatest resource, the Bible. Let me add, develop a plan on how you are going to strengthen your skills. No one stumbles into greatness. Intentionality is the bridge between opportunity and reality. You are in charge of you. You can not be controlled. To believe, what Danny Silk calls “the great lie”, which is “I can be controlled therefore I can control you.” You are responsible for you. Do the hard work of putting yourself into places where you can grow and learn from others.

David shepherded people. He was responsible TO people more than he was responsible FOR them. I hope these questions help you along your journey of growth and provide for you the framework to be a fruitful leader instead of a fruitless leader.

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