I am convinced that the biggest hurdle to overcome in leadership, especially church leadership, is fear. We, who are in ministry, have many things to fear. We fear changing or shutting down a program or ministry because of the shock waves it will create. We fear rebuking someone who needs it because we are scared of how they will react. We are sacred of running an event that we know could make an impact because we are scared of how we will look if no one comes. We are sacred of the people we went to college with or the people in our denomination so we will not do anything outside of the lines in any way out of fear rather than conviction.
And yet it seems like the people we most admire most are people of courage. Think about it, we don’t think that cowards make great leaders do we? Of course not. That is because courage is the thing that establishes a leader. Or to put it another way if you want to lead you have to be courageous. There are no cowardly leaders.
It is easy to think that being plagued by fear is just a ministry thing. but it holds back leaders in other professions too. For example, Doug Collins coached Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the late eighties and yet he never won a championship. Phil Jackson took over the coaching job and won six championships. What was the difference? Read what Johnny Bach who was assistant coach to both of them said about their coaching and influence:
Collins has many strengths, but his insecurity played out in a difficult way. On a certain level, he wanted to be loved by his players, particularly Jordan, which simply wasn’t possible. Jackson, on the other hand, showed little interest in that. “The most important things is that he never sought their love,” Bach said of Jackson, looking back. “there are many coaches who want to be loved, who have to be loved and go down in flames as a result of it. Pro athletes just aren’t going to do that. They aren’t going to give you that love if you seek it.”
Roland Lazenby Michael Jordan: The Life, 374
What was the difference between Jackson and Collins as coaches and leaders? Fear. Collins feared the consequences of not being loved by his team, especially Jordan whereas Jackson didn’t. And that lack of fear, not strategy or anything else was the decisive factor.
A lack of courage is seen in the business world also. In the great book Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan there are a number of times where the authors talk about the lack of emotional fortitude in some business leaders which shows up in their inability to say hard things and keep people accountable. In other words they too are scared of the consequences or scared of seeming like a jerk.
Fear is a constant in leadership and courage is always needed in leadership. So how do you be courageous? How do you feel the fear and do the right thing anyway? I think there are two things that will help us be courageous:
Firstly, we have to realise that whatever we are fearing (a conversation, a decision, a person) it is not as scary as God himself. The God of the Bible is so powerful that he created the world in an instant, he defeated death, and will come back and can singlehandedly destroy the armies of the world (Revelation 19). When our hearts rejoice that he is on our side and that we are safe in his love no matter the consequences we will not fear anyone or anything. Your fear of the things of this world will only be quashed when you truly fear the creator of this world.
The second thing to do is to prepare to confront our fears and attack them. Are you scared of having that conversation? Well write down what you are going to say and go and book in a time to say it. Are you scared to stake that risk but you think it is the right thing to do? Well prepare for it and take it! Every time I have confronted a fear, whether it be a person, a meeting, or something else, the fear itself has always been worse than the outcome of my actions.
So what fear is holding you back in your ministry and leadership? Your God, the one who should be feared above all else, is the one who is calling you to be courageous in the face of your fears and lead.
The ball is in your court!
Step up and be courageous!