Leading in the Shadow of Uncertainty

I picked up an old read off the shelf this week, Andy Stanley’s The Next Generation Leader, and stumbled across another gem from him. His insight’s were very applicable to my current world, especially coming on the heels of a staff planning retreat, the addition of new staff members, the diverse ages and experiences of staff, and current movement of our church.

Sorry for the length of the post, but it’s worth the read.

Here’s Andy:

“Leadership is all about taking people on a journey. The challenge is that most of the time we are asking people to follow us to places we have never been……There are no maps to guide us we are left to cut a trail. Yet as we move forward into the uncertainty before us, we sense the need to turn occasionally and assure those who follow.

“This is the tension every good leader lives with: negotiating uncertain terrain while casting a clear and compelling vision. There is always uncertainty. But uncertainty underscores the need for clarity.

“Think for a moment about you leadership environment. How are you managing uncertainty? As I write these words, I find myself at the helm of the largest church I have every attended and the only church I have ever pastored. None of my staff has ever ministered in a church this large. In fact, most of my staff have never even worked in a church before.

“The truth is that we don’t really know what we are doing. This is new for all of us. We have a good idea of what we want the organization to be in five years, but we are absolutely uncertain as to how to get it there. Like you, we have never been to the place we are asking others to follow us to. We will all arrive for the first time together.

“But none of that bothers me. I Have learned that my enemy is not uncertainty. It is not even my responsibility to remove the uncertainty. It is my responsibility to bring clarity into the midst of uncertainiy…that is your responsibility as well.”

One thought on “Leading in the Shadow of Uncertainty

  1. Marla Saunders

    Jim, I really appreciated your thoughts on uncertainty. I love Mark Batterson’s book “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day.” I’ve written about it a lot. He was in your position…at the head of a church with no idea what the next step was. He likened that to King David’s man Benaiah following a lion into a pit. The lion represents all the fears and uncertainty of life… and Benaiah chose to chase that lion and kill it. This one act opened up the rest of Benaiah’s life to the plans that God had.

    Like Benaiah, it sounds like you’re looking at several glowing eyes of lions, and realizing that it’s time to stand your ground even when uncertain. Go for it! In your greatest risk lies your greatest opportunity.

    I love that you are openly sharing this journey with all of us and your staff: we are all so much stronger with each other than isolated on our own.

    Thanks for listening, and I’d really recommend picking up that book.

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