Personal lessons on leadership: Musings from this past year

Life changed one year ago.  In January, I began my new position at Capital Seminary.  Transitioning from pastoral ministry to academia proved both exciting and stretching as I entered a new ministry.  In some respects, it was similar as it involved pastoral care and administration.  In other ways, it was quite different as it meant being part of a larger organization with its unique protocols and processes.  Thankfully, LBC and Capital Seminary accommodated the learning curve of such a transition.  As I reflect back on this past year, there are a few poignant lessons I have learned about leadership.

  1. Sacred space matters. The daily life of a leader is filled with decision-making, vision-casting, conflict resolution, and mission-critical items.  I am the first to say my leadership pattern for years consisted of sacred space only in the morning.  I have learned this routine is a mistake.  It is essential for me to carve out time throughout the day to spiritually breathe.  Without it, decisions are reactive, emotional, short-sighted, and convenient.  Those few minutes at different points, when available and when necessary, allow me to make better, more God-honoring, leadership decisions.
  1. Chemistry matters. It is tempting to add a person to one’s team based on a resume or reputation yet the quality and makeup of a person matters equally as much.  In the program, there have been prospective students that appeared to be a good fit based on their academic portfolio.  However, during the interview process, certain responses gave me pause.  Since the program is cohort-based, chemistry is important.  If the student is not a mission-fit with the aims and philosophies of the program, it would have an erosive impact on the other students.  Equally so, I have observed the importance of chemistry through several new hires in my department.  The consideration of how that person fits within the existing team led to seamlessness with regards to mission and vision because an individual’s personality was pre-screened.
  1. Emotional intelligence matters. I have learned that simply because a person is a leader does not mean that person is emotionally mature.  Oftentimes, individuals are promoted to leadership based on achievements, charisma, and even physical stature.  Unfortunately, if a person is not emotionally healthy, it is simply a matter of time before the organization suffers.  It seems to me imperative that any person added to a team, organization, or ministry should spend considerable time evaluating a person’s emotional health.  It might require probing to determine a person’s emotional intelligence but it is worth it.
  1. Intentionality matters. There is a balance between delegation and micromanaging when it comes to leadership.  Oftentimes, a person tilts one way or the other.  Delegation empowers individuals yet runs the risk of seeing mission and vision slide due to worker autonomy.  Micromanaging preserves mission yet can suffocate individuality.  Good leaders find the right practice of intentionality and trust.  I have found great freedom at Capital in large part because this balance is fostered and practiced.  It leads to deeper passion and enthusiasm while also nurturing direction and accountability.

A person reading these musings might say, “Those are great.  But, what about…”  Yes, I agree.  This list is short.  I will be the first to say leadership is complex.  Yet, I have learned over the past year that in the midst of that complexity it is essential to preserve, if not implement, certain values that impact the longevity and health of an organization or team.  For me, these lessons capture some of these convictions.

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