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Leadership is wrought with mission-critical crossroads and difficult decisions. Every week I talk with key influencers ‒ in both churches and businesses ‒ that wonder which way to go, how to invest, who to hire, where to cut back, and if all their hard work is really worth it. It’s not usually the choices that hold leaders back from making the call; it’s what’s unknown on the other side. How will this turn out? Who will get hurt and how deeply? Am I thinking clearly or are my wires crossed? What if we get it wrong? Or, better yet, what if we get this one right?
While the past may be clear, the future always remains a mystery. The potential ramifications of failure or success weigh on leaders daily, which isn’t so bad, until the fog rolls in ‒ as Pastor Kyle discovered.
Kyle could hardly believe what was at the top of the board’s next meeting agenda. He had seen it coming, but that didn’t make the news sit any easier. The fate of his family and faith community were on the line. The doors to the church he and his friends had planted were still on hinges; but, keeping them open was another matter. While Kyle and his pastoral team’s passion for Christ hadn’t changed, their ability to make choices and move ahead for the congregation’s sake seemed blanketed by a cloud. It had been this way for months. They just kept asking themselves what was on everyone’s minds, “How did this happen? What did we do wrong? Was the Lord not in this? Could things still turn around? What should we do?” It was during this gut-wrenching season that Kyle discovered his desperate need for godly wisdom to push through the fog as a leader, regardless of the outcome.
You don’t have to walk far in Kyle’s shoes to feel his pain. The agony of leadership is present whether things go up and to the right or down the drain. It’s not so bad when sound strategies and gifted teams get paired with clear thinking. But what about those seasons when you lose your bearings? When leadership feels more like a pilot flying through clouds without any idea he’s upside down! It’s nearly impossible to define or describe “the fog,” but fortunately there’s godly wisdom to draw upon so you can move ahead when it rolls in.
Turning on your brights doesn’t make it better.
Your Word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. (Psalm 119:105)
Drivers learn early on that low beam headlights are best when the fog is thickest. High beams just make the moisture in the air all the more white. As a leader, turning to God’s Word in times of confusion is a lifesaver. You don’t need to see everything ahead of you to take one faithful step at a time. This post gives you five verses and principles to get you started.
You’re not alone even if it feels that way.
But David found strength in the Lord his God …. (1 Samuel 30:6b)
At one of his lowest points as a leader, King David didn’t freak out when the fog rolled in. He counteracted his low approval rating and the suffering he and his troops were experiencing by choosing to depend on God alone. You may feel alone, weighed down beyond what you believe you can bear, but the Lord is with you. Take time to read and reflect on Psalm 139 so the Holy Spirit can revive you to the core.
Sometimes it’s better to focus on the trees.
You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:5)
Most of the time leaders are told to stay out of the weeds, to focus on the forest and not the trees. This is great counsel, unless what’s right in front of you is what needs the most attention. Your integrity will be tested when the fog rolls in. If character issues, sins, grudges, broken relationships, or anything inappropriate is keeping you from seeing clearly as a leader, deal with it right away.
It’s okay to ask for directions.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)
The Lord is way more qualified to lead through fog than any human leader. It’s honorable to admit you don’t always know where you’re going or how to get there. Choose humility for yourself and your team. Be willing to bow in prayer, to ask God for His perspective on what’s wisest, and choose to submit to His guidance.
Stay the course unless you hear otherwise.
It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us … (Acts 15:28a)
When I coach leaders, I find that many are so concerned with figuring out their “best next step” that they forget about their “last right step.” It’s more important to stay faithful than to forge ahead unwisely when the fog rolls in. Rather than be overwhelmed by the unknown or make matters worse by second guessing every forward movement, simply decide to keep on the same path with God’s Spirit and the community closest to you. To do this, revisit your mission, vision, core values, and whatever guiding documents bind you together. It will reset you and ground your footing even when it feels like the fog is surrounding you as a leader.