Reposting an article on the single biggest leadership obstacle that most of us ever learned. I spend more time coaching this one "out'" of pastors I work with than almost anything else.
The first leadership book I ever assigned my staff team was Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Effective People. It was, as my pal Charlie would say, “the right tool for the job.” My team indeed became more "effective" in lots of meaningful ways. One of the concepts that helped us the most was Habit #4: “Think Win-Win.”
Coming into a situation where there had been lots of “every ministry for itself” thinking and little teamwork around a unified vision, we needed to learn how to think “Win-Win” in as many situations as possible. And it worked. Within a remarkably short time, we became a “Win-Win”-seeking bunch of teammates all working together around a clear vision of what our church could be for our community.
Fast-forward a decade and the same “Win-Win” team finds itself “Stuck-Stuck”. We had made a lot of good changes, the church had grown and we had re-built our entire campus. Things were good. Mostly.
But now we faced far more complex challenges. Challenges that had no clear cut solutions. Challenges that were more systemic in nature. Challenges that required us to learn what we didn’t know. Challenges that couldn’t be solved through a conference or a video series or a program. What Ronald Heifetz calls an “adaptive challenge”. Adaptive Challenges are the true tests of leadership. These are the enduring tough problems that require PEOPLE to change in order for problems to get solved. And, by definition, an “Adaptive Challenge” CANNOT be solved through Win-Win.
Adaptive Challenges can only be solved through careful, wise, discerning, collaborative decision making that results in someone losing. Indeed, if the organization or church (or business or state, or country!) doesn’t face this hard reality and insists on “win-win”, the only real result will be “lose-lose.”
One executive pastor of a large Presbyterian church put it to me this way: “Until now, we could solve every problem in our church through ‘addition’. If there was a problem, we simply added another ministry, added more money to the budget, add more staff to the team. But now we can’t afford to add anything more. Any changes we make now are going to have to come through making hard decisions and ‘subtraction’.” For a church that’s used to addition, ‘subtraction’ is really, really painful.
In our own church, getting beyond “win-win” required me to learn to lead differently. Specifically, while the first decade of my ministry was built around getting “wins” together as we moved toward our vision, if we were going to truly fulfill our mission, we were going to have to make many more tough choices where someone was going to lose. Perhaps for me, the most important day in my ministry at SCPC was when I realized that if we were going to move beyond “Win-Win” to bring genuine, missional, faithful, change the first “loser” was… me.More next post.