As we find ourselves at the end of 2022, we look forward to the next year with an optimism we have not had for several years. And while we hope some of the challenges of 2022 to be behind us, it would be naïve to think that 2023 will not be without some of the same continuing challenges, as well as some new ones.
With that in mind I have been processing what I have seen or experienced about effective leadership in 2022 that needs to be taken with us as we lead from one year into the next. I want to share just a few of these observations with you. While I know that these observations are neither new nor profound, for me they are important starting blocks for us in 2023 as leaders.
So, in no strategic order, here are six leadership priorities I have seen evidenced in 2022.
First, I think leaders, in this time more than ever, need to hold and express humility. You can have all the wisdom in the world, but if you do not operate with humility what you build risks being little more than a house of cards that could collapse easily with the first missteps or failure. Humility puts you in a place where you can survive mistakes, and are empowered to try again. And truthfully, we will all make mistakes. We have seen over and over in 2022 how people struggle to respond well to leaders who do not embrace a humble spirit. Additionally, humility is a core element to other leadership priorities.
Case in point – 2022 has continued the recent tradition of instability and change. And while some of that change has been predicable, some of it has not. Thus an essential leadership priority going forward will continue to be flexibility (which requires tremendous humility). I have said this before, and I will say it again: do things as experiments, be willing to change, adapt, pause, flex, start, and stop. That approach, appropriately applied, will continue to pay dividends in a time of rapid and unpredictable change.
Thirdly, leadership moving forward continues to need a commitment to reliability and dependability. Leaders who went silent, or absent, during COVID did not lead well and eroded the future of their ministry through that avoidance. Our churches need leaders who will continue to show up, whose dependability is manifest.
Fourthly, I would suggest that we need leaders who are anchored in the essential truths of the gospel. Good leadership recognizes, and works with, the distinction between “the essential” and “the non-essential.” We must be theologically sound. Leaders need to be able to identify and hold to the essentials and resist the temptation of allowing non-essentials to win the day and direct our decisions.
Build on the essentials, not the extras.
Fifthly, leaders will always need courage, but especially in strange times like these. We need courage to fight the temptations of the leader to cater to the loudest voices, who often are not the most important voices (those with needs, or wisdom, or grace, or impact). We need courage to anchor only in essentials, and to allow room within our congregations for differences on non-essentials. We need courage to be reliable, and even to be flexible.
Finally, I would say leaders need to be listeners – wholistic, intentional, wise, and disciplined listeners – who listen to voices even outside their own comfortable chambers. That is hard work, especially since we must be wise in the voices we listen to. But we need to listen to wise voices (find a mentor!), to those most impacted by your decisions, to our community, even to those with whom we disagree.
I recognize that there is much more that could/should be said about each of these, as well as other leadership priorities that could be mentioned. But I suggest these to prime your own thinking on this. What leadership principles and priorities do you want to work on and leverage in 2023? I would love to hear what you are seeing, learning, experiencing, and wanting to develop. Drop me note. I want to listen!!
EFCC Leadership Catalyst