The final speaker of the day was Andy Stanley. Andy is the Senior Pastor of North Point Church, which has 28,000 people attending it on its three campuses.
Despite my hands beginning to cramp from typing quickly all day, here’s a recap of Andy’s session.
As a young leader it is easy to think mature leaders have it all together. It’s easy to think established organizations don’t have challenges. I came into leadership with several myths.
Myth: If you’re a great leader and have a great organization then you won’t have problems or tensions. If you keep having the same problems then you have a leadership issue.
Fact: Great organizations always have problems and tensions, but they leverage it for progress.
If you can touch your opposable thumb to all of your fingers, then you are a primate. It is the signature feature of primates. A professional baseball player can take a baseball, throw it 90 mph and do remarkable things with the baseball by applying pressure and tension with his thumb and fingers.
Pressure and tension. There is always pressure and tension that leads to progress if you leverage it correctly.
1. Every organization has problems that shouldn’t be solved and tensions that shouldn’t be resolved.
A. For example: What’s more important? – How do you resolve tensions of family and ministry? You can’t, you manage the tension.
B. If you “resolve” any of those tensions, you will create new tension.
What are the specifics in our company/ministry that we shouldn’t try to resolve?
- Marketing vs sales
- Management vs leadership
- Systems vs flexibility
- Holy spirit led preacher who keeps preaching vs preacher who finishes up on time all the time
- Leading vs shepherding
- Numeric growth vs maturity
There are problems you should never solve.
C. If you resolve any of those tensions, you will create new tension. – What if you opt for excellence over financial stability. What if you opt for savings over excellence? What if you are all theology and no application? What happens if you allow the spirit to lead?
If you cut off your thumb, you know it immediately. In ministry, we cut off our thumb by solving the wrong problems. If we take certain tensions off the table so they can’t be discussed, new problems come up. If you resolve any of those tensions, you create a barrier to progress.
D. Progress depends not on the resolution of those tensions but on the successful managing of those tensions.
2. To distinguish between problems to solve and tensions to manage, ask the following:
A. Does this problem or tension keep resurfacing?
B. Are there mature advocates for both sides? – Mature Christians vs unbelievers, a tension we must manage. In the past churches decided to be all about believers and managed away tension. Every healthy church should deal with this tension. We must be comfortable in dealing with it.
C. Are the two sides really interdependent? Family vs Work
3. The role of leadership is to leverage the tension to the benefit of the organization.
This is our role.
A. Identify the tensions to be managed in your organization. – New vs mature What are problems we need to quit trying to solve and learn to manage?
B. Create terminology – “I guess that’s a tension we have to manage.” When you create terminology around this dynamic, you create a third category. If you get strong personalities on opposing sides of argument, one will win and one will lose unless there is a third category. It’s not about winning a battle, but managing a tension.
C. Inform your core. – Make sure key players understand this principle. Help create new terminology around this so discussions can happen. Some things will never go away, so leverage it. Certain tensions are the key to progress.
D. Continually give value to both sides.
E. Don’t weigh in too heavily based on your personal biases. – We have an opinion and will lean one way or the other. We need to be careful that we don’t indirectly try and solve a problem. Understand the upside of the opposite side and understand the downside of your side. You need to be able to argue for the opposite side.
F. Don’t allow strong personalities to win the day. – I need passionate people who will champion their side, but mature people who will also understand reality. (An example is a Middle School Pastor who is all about Middle School, but nothing else at the church.) We need people who are passionate for their side of the equation, but mature enough to understand the reality and tension of situation.
G. Don’t think in terms of balance. Think rhythm. – As a leader never try to be fair. Don’t think in those terms, or terms of balance. Think in terms of rhythm. Time to weigh heavily on some things and then times to lean away. Some times are systems and then they’ll be about flexibility. Spend vs conserve. Singing vs preaching. Not about balance or fair but paying attention to rhythms of organization.
CONCLUSION: As a leader, one of the most valuable things you can do for your organization is differentiate between tensions your organization will always need to manage vs. problems need to be solved.
If you do that, the tensions will be part of your story’s progress. We stay relevant if we can live with the tensions and manage them well.