Overcome Crisis in 5 Steps When the Leader PRAYS
While the crisis is inevitable, failure, more often than not, is avoidable. Strictly speaking, Christian leaders should aim for success. God wants us to succeed and weather the storms of life, rather than merely making it by the “skin of our teeth,” as my grandmother used to say. Even more so, Christian leaders have to act in the manner that Christ would have us perform, and by so doing, we move His kingdom forward by improving ours.
As an executive, leadership, and career coach, I have the privilege of speaking with and learning from the great leaders in today’s world. Overwhelming, they express fear for the future. Now, we know as Christians, that “God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7). But how do I, as a Christian leader, demonstrate, live, and lead by that power, love, and self-discipline, when I see constant fear, death, hate, and destruction? I submit that you, the five steps to overcome any crisis, will become apparent as the leader PRAYS.
P – Focus on the People
R – Research all the issues, not just the appealing ones
A – Be accepting, not prejudicial
Y – Be a Yucca to those in need
S – Lead by Spiritual Savvy
The leader-follower relationship is essential to success. In today’s world, perception is king. In our social media world, we are bombarded with a never-ending flood of leader indiscretions instantly condemned by the masses, with leader ostracization following. Followers are not immune to the virus of social media judgment and condemnation. Sadly, social media does not forget the incident, even after rectification. Once earned, leaders must employ vast resources and time to maintain the relationship they have with followers and keeping the social media perception great. In a study conducted in 2006, four basic types of leader-follower relationships emerged: Authority-based, Collaborative, Partnership, and Engaged.
Authority-based relationships are set in place by organizational structures. Supervisors have employees assigned to them, and an authority-based relationship emerges. Strikingly by default, this relationship level does not grow loyalty. Additionally, this relationship will not motivate followers to achieve more than the minimum required to maintain employment.
The leader and follower work together to accomplish set goals in a collaborative relationship. Here, leaders and followers communicate openly with each other. To reach this relationship level, the leader must exhibit high job competence, which garners follower loyalty, trust, and respect. As trust and respect grow, partnership forms.
In this relationship, the leader values the follower’s opinions and shows trust in the follower by allowing more job independence. Because both the leader and follower exhibit faith in each other’s work and abilities, the follower perceives equality with the leader. Interestingly, in this relationship, both leader and follower willingly accept they need the other to reach success.
The engaged relationship is the highest form of relationship and impacts your ability to overcome crisis immensely. When engaged, both followers and leaders share information frequently. Additionally, all are highly devoted and committed to goal accomplishment because it benefits the other party. Both leader and follower look out for each other’s best interests. At this level, the leader provides clear expectations and encourages the follower toward advancement opportunities. In return, the follower actively seeks guidance and direction from the leader to meet goals.
Animosity disappears because followers and leaders genuinely care for and actively work towards the other’s best interests. Interestingly, Jesus taught his followers to reach this relationship level in the Golden Rule (Luke 6:31). To achieve this relationship level, leaders must demonstrate high job competence, trust in the follower, and genuinely care for the follower. During a crisis, the loyalty and trust levels directly correlate to survivability.
As a tremendous Biblical example, Joseph of Egypt followed the Lord because the Lord was caring, trustworthy, and competent (Deuteronomy 28:1). Consequently, by following the Lord’s teachings, Joseph learned these traits. Joseph was “well-favored” (Genesis 39:6) as a slave in with Potiphar’s house. Subsequently, due to his trust and competence, Potiphar promoted Joseph to the master of the house (Genesis 39:6). Potiphar and Joseph eventually reached the Engaged relationship level. Potiphar promoted Joseph to the highest standing allowable, trusting him so much that he knew nothing about the running of the home except the food he ate (Genesis 39:6). Eventually, Joseph became like a Prime Minister, all the while growing engaging relationships.
For the leader to exhibit competence, the leader must conduct research. Specifically, the leader must know all that is available regarding the task or crisis at hand. The adage of knowledge being power is correct. Jesus was the embodiment of all knowledge and wisdom (Col. 2:2-3). Complete research allows making well-informed, not rushed decisions. Followers count on leaders to make the right and best choices to navigate and overcome the crisis. Too often, though, we tend to gravitate to the opinions and viewpoints most similar to our own.
A study conducted in 2016 by Aidan Gregg at the University of Southampton discovered that people tend to first seek out others with similar viewpoints. By doing this, we solidify our position on the topic. Interestingly, we also shut out or turn off opposing views faster once we have our opinions pinned down and validated by a second person. As a leader, we cannot afford to take this destructive path. Once the leader makes the decision, all must live with its consequences. If the leader pushes a hidden agenda, other than the stated, specific goal, followers lose interest and become disenfranchised.
Seek Opposing Views First
To overcome this obstacle and make well-informed choices, the leader must research and learn about all viewpoints and facts. Partisan news sources often portray events through a skewed lens. Sadly, we may be past the point of having any news outlets that are truly unbiased and have no hidden agenda. Therefore, the leader must search and dig deep to uncover the impartial truth, starting with your opposing view’s news stories. Once discovered, I often recommend that leaders determine who those in the group usually play Devil’s Advocate, or most often voices discontent and ask them their thoughts and opinions before seeking those who hold similar views as yours. Taking this opposite route strengthens your ability to listen to and accept guidance and enlightenment from alternative viewpoints and often brings to light alternative ways to overcome crisis and challenges.
On face value, most of us would quickly shout that they are accepting and in no way exercise prejudice. However, upon further review, we may be found wanting. As mentioned previously, we tend to gravitate to those with similar viewpoints. By so doing, we become more prejudicial. For this article, prejudice, which is typically associated with racial bias, more clearly describes a snap judgment we make before gaining all the information. A classic example of this type of prejudice comes from Jane Austin’s Pride & Prejudice novel. Due to pride, Darcy prejudged Elizabeth due to her social standing, and Elizabeth did the same to him based solely on a bad first impression. Indeed, we tend to prejudge books and people by their covers, ignoring the wealth of information inside.
Patience and Learning Overcome Prejudice
Elizabeth’s and Darcy’s problems could have been averted through a little education and patience. Similarly, leaders cause more problems than create solutions when they make prejudicial decisions based on little evidence and a desire to be the first to correct the problem. Leaders overcome this issue faster when they work to build that engaged relationship I discussed earlier. As the leader learns more about the follower, similarities will emerge. Those similarities provide an opportunity to grow closer through shared humanity and experiences. Simply put, when the leader views the follower as a child of God and a fellow brother or sister trying to make it through this life as they are, acceptance and patience increase.
Yucca to Those in Need
I love Yucca shrubs and trees. Some of my fondest memories of childhood come from spending summer with my grandfather near San Antonio, TX. In the back of the home was a swimming pool, and near that pool stood a tall, beautiful yucca with bright white flowers. I loved sitting nearby watching the moths and insects pollinate and scurry up and down its leaves and trunk. Through the yucca, God provided us with beautiful examples of excellent leadership. By way of disclaimer, by sharing the following examples, I am in no way purporting to be a yucca expert!
Yucca trees and shrubs have specialized, symbiotic relationship with most yucca moth species. Yucca moths pollinate the flowers while simultaneously laying eggs in the flower. When the larvae develop, they feed on the yucca seeds but are very careful to leave enough seeds for future yucca species survival. They have a genuinely engaging relationship in which they both look out for the interest of the other and overcome crisis together.
Many parts, if not all, of yucca, are beneficial for many uses. One variety has the nickname ‘soaptree’ because the roots are used to make shampoo. Dried yucca leaves have a low burning temperature, which make them excellent fire starters. Additionally, some species are termed ‘meat hangers’ because locals used the sturdy, pointy, sharp leaves to hang meat on for drying or salting. Interestingly, the sharp, pointy leaves also prevent other animal predators from removing the drying meat prematurely. Lastly, the fibers in the leaves, because of their durability, were widely used to create ropes. To overcome crisis effectively, great leaders must be as resourceful and useful as the yucca to empower, protect, and lift those suffering during a crisis.
Spiritually Savvy Leadership
Leaders make mistakes. However, Christian leaders have a mandate to model good works, be of sound speech, and demonstrate integrity (Titus 2:7-8). Some have misinterpreted this to mean that leaders should overlook the misdeeds of high performers. Leaders must exhibit sound ethical decisions as well, so we should not ignore transgressions. Typically, savvy is associated with being shrewd; however, this has a negative connotation, often perceived as being deceitful. Follower trust will not develop at the desired rate if they see you as insincere. What savvy are we going for here? Leaders should be spiritually savvy. A study published in the Academy of Management Journal in 2018 outlined the case for spiritual savvy.
Spiritually savvy leaders have the required skills and abilities to reach success in the global economy. Specifically, empirical data suggests that spiritually in-tune leaders display mastery for exhibiting the core leadership principles of acceptance, innovation, and trust. Additionally, spiritually savvy leaders typically garner higher numbers of inspired ideas from their followers. The driving factor behind the data highlighted that spiritually savvy leaders do not set their goals based on increasing profits or reducing costs. Conversely, the spiritually savvy leaders set goals to reach perfection, fulfillment, advance knowledge, and aid others in achieving their goals. Amazingly, according to the study, once the leader’s goals shifted to those of a more spiritual nature, higher profits, lower turnover, and higher follower trust emerged than those whose focus was solely based on profit.
Christian leaders should aim for success during any crisis. Because we see a constant stream of fear, destruction, disaster, and sadness, leaders must exercise more leadership wisdom to compensate for the continued drag on our emotions. By continuously focusing on people and building those engaged relationships, leaders build follower trust because the follower and leader look out for each other’s best interests.
As leaders research all the issues and gain a complete picture and understanding, the leader is in a better place to make sensible decisions. When leaders demonstrate acceptance, not prejudice, for opposing viewpoints, they increase in patience, and the leader-follower relationship encourages more exceptional shared experiences. Additionally, through building a symbiotic Yucca-like relationship with your followers, you empower, protect, and lift those suffering during a crisis. This relationship enables you to look beyond the near-term and set goals for perfection by exercising spiritual savvy. Simply put, the five steps to overcome any crisis become apparent when the leader PRAYS.
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For more information on overcoming crisis, you may want to check out the following articles and book reviews: