It’s always tempting to look at mature and successful leaders and think they know it all. It’s tempting to look at successful churches and think they have it all together. All of their challenges/problems are just great stories because they are great leaders who know how to solve them.
The myth we tend to believe is that if you are a great leader with a well-led organization that you will solve all of your problems and get rid of all of your tension. The general notion is that problems and tension are a result of poor leadership.
Great organizations have tensions and problems that are never solved. Leaders learn to leverage the problems that never go away in a way to create progress for the organization. The right amount of tension and pressure at the right moment can lead to extraordinary results. Tension and pressure can lead to progress and can allow us to go farther and faster.
“In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” Acts 6:1-7 (NIV)
As leaders we constantly need to determine whether something is a tension to be managed or a problem to be solved.
Creative Process – Pay Now/Play Later
People vs. Tasks
Leader vs. Communicator
SG Space Issues
Missional vs. Attractional
Managing tensions is living in the foggy, gray areas when what you want is clear black and white, managing tensions is about finding the right place, given the particular set of circumstances and words, that gets the tension as right as we can, given that we are not perfect people.
Here is a third option …
EVERY ORGANIZATION HAS PROBLEMS THAT SHOULDN’T BE SOLVED AND TENSIONS THAT SHOULDN’T BE RESOLVED.
“Now regarding your question about food that has been offered to idols. Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church.Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much.But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes. So, what about eating meat that has been offered to idols? Well, we all know that an idol is not really a god and that there is only one God. There may be so-called gods both in heaven and on earth, and some people actually worship many gods and many lords. But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life. However, not all believers know this. Some are accustomed to thinking of idols as being real, so when they eat food that has been offered to idols, they think of it as the worship of real gods, and their weak consciences are violated.It’s true that we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We don’t lose anything if we don’t eat it, and we don’t gain anything if we do. But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge”—eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol? So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed. And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ. So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble.” 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 (NLT)
What’s more important?
Excellence vs. Stewardship Of Resources
Flexibility For The Preacher vs. Getting Kids Out Of Their Classes
Attracting The Unchurched vs. Growing The Faithful
Creativity vs. Predictability
Worship vs. Preaching
If you “resolve” any of those tensions, you will create new tension.
What happens if you’re all theology and no application? What if you leave the length of the service up to the Holy Spirit rather than the kids being the measurement of how long the service should be? What if we choose to reach out more than try and placate the crowd?
If you resolve any of those tensions, you create a barrier to progress.
Progress depends not on the resolution of those tensions, but on the successful management of those tensions.
1.To Distinguish Between Problems To Solve & Tensions To Manage, Ask The Following:
a.Does this problem or tension keep resurfacing?
If it keeps coming up, it’s probably a tension to manage rather than a problem to solve.
b.Are there mature advocates for both sides?
If so, then chances are it’s a tension to manage. Safer for unbelievers vs. Deeper for believers (maturity) is a very healthy tension.
c.Are the two sides really interdependent?
Not either/or but both/and! We must be comfortable leading with certain tensions as much as they drive us crazy. There are conflicts/tensions that are critical to the progress of our organizations.
2.The Role Of Leadership Is To Leverage The Tension To The Benefit Of The Organization.
The goal is to maximize the upsides of each view and you minimize the downsides of each view.
1.Identify the tensions to be managed in your organization.
3.Inform your core. (teach this to your leaders, board members, SGL’s, etc.)
4.Continually give value to both sides.
5.Don’t weigh in too heavily based on your personal biases.
As a leader you’ll naturally champion one side or the other so be sure and understand the upsides and downsides of both points of view.
6.Don’t allow strong personalities to win the day.
We all have whiners and complainers on our teams. We all have those who don’t speak up unless spoken to and we have to invite them into the conversation. You need passionate people who will champion their sides but you need mature people who realize we’re always going to have tension. And that’s okay!
7.Don’t think in terms of balance. Think rhythm.
If you’re managerial you’re going to think in terms of balance, evenness, etc. but you need to think rhythm because every organization has seasons it goes through and you have to manage in terms of rhythm.
Sometimes the organization needs more management than vision. Sometimes more worship is needed than preaching. Sometimes we need more theology than application. Sometimes we need more local compassion outreach than global outreach. And sometimes it’s the other way around.
As a leader, one of the most valuable things you can do for your organization is to differentiate between tensions your organization will always need to manage vs. problems that need to be solved.
What are some of the tensions you manage in your organizations and families?
In business there are many different problems and tensions … but they are VERY specific to individual industries/companies.
Led by the Spirit/Led by the Clock
If you “resolve” any of those tensions, you will create new tension.
What if you opt to commit to excellence without regard to finances? What if you are all theology and no application? What if you let the Spirit lead and neglect your volunteers?
If you were to cut off your thumb the results would be immediately recognizable. In organizational life, we cut off our thumbs by solving the wrong problems.