NASHVILLE—I landed in Nashville late last night after spending the weekend in Portland, Oregon, teaching The Multiplication Challenge to leaders at City Bible Church. You can listen to my sermon from their Sunday services here.
Last week, I wrote about a recurring question that I receive from emerging leaders around the world: How do you lead when you aren’t fully in charge (a.k.a. leading from the middle). But what happens when you are fully in charge? What kinds of challenges come up when you are the established leader and the whole staff (big or small) reports to you?
One of the biggest challenges for senior leaders is listening.
I have blogged about this many times. I’ve written about pastors who listen well. I’ve written about what voices we should listen to. And I’ve written about why listening is good for our team and good for our souls.
But today, I want to look briefly at a problem that every senior leader will face…
What do you do when the (entire!) team disagrees with you about a particular decision or direction? What if you feel you’ve had a word from God, and no one else on the team thinks that your idea is a good idea (much less a God-idea)?
How do we balance our responsibility to lead our team and listen to our team? How can we as Christian leaders listen to God and listen to people—especially when we feel like those voices are saying different things?
My answer to this complex problem is simple.
If we think we’ve heard from God, but the entire team (including our spouse) disagrees, then there are really two option:
1. We haven’t really heard from God. Sometimes this happens. Sometimes we miss it. Be humble, listen to the team, and move on. And, thank God for a wise team that is willing to speak up.
2. Maybe we have heard from God, but the team is not ready. In this case, we need to be patient. Maybe it is a good idea to build that new building, start that new location, or plant that new church. But if our team is not on board, then we need be patient with them and trust that God is going to bring unity to the team in His timing.
Some of you may be thinking—wait, isn’t there a third option? What about the scenario where I am convinced that I am right (and the team is wrong), and I can’t wait for the team to come around? What do we do then?
I will say that in nearly four decades of ministry experience, that situation has only happened to me once, so it is (and should be) incredibly rare for any leader. But in that case, I would still recommend listening.
Rather than adopting a defensive posture, seek more advice, perhaps from other senior leaders who have been in your shoes. Spend more time in prayer, listening to the Holy Spirit. Trust that God will speak and give you clarity and wisdom on what to do.
When I do that, He usually tells me to listen.