33 min
By: ENC Leaders

Episode 10: Leading in Anxious Times, Becoming a Calm Leader (Part 1)

When leaders bring in a calmer presence, the people they lead have more room to move toward wisdom. What are the challenges of becoming a calm leader?

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Show notes:

1:27 – The value of becoming a calm leader

  • “The leader’s main job, through his or her way of being in the congregation, is to create an emotional atmosphere in which greater calmness exists—to be a less anxious presence. ‘Knowing everything’ is not necessary to be a healthy, competent leader. When you can be a less anxious presence, there is often enough experience and wisdom in the group for the group itself to figure out its own solutions to the challenges it faces. When a leader cannot contribute to this kind of atmosphere, the thinking processes in the group short-circuit, and people become more anxious and more emotionally reactive and make poorer decisions.” – Jim Herrington, The Leader’s Journey
  • If the leader adds anxiety with how they respond or how they speak, you can see that reflected in the system around them.
  • If leaders can just bring in a calmer presence, then the rest of the group have more room to move toward wisdom.

5:18 – The challenges of becoming a calm leader

1. Fake Maturity

  • “It’s easier to appear calm than to be calm.”
  • If we don’t deal with what’s in our heart, then it’s only a matter of time before that weakness shows up elsewhere.
  • “This counterfeit type of maturity is not always unhelpful as it enables us to rise to many challenges in life and cope beyond our usual capabilities. This ‘winging it’ kind of maturity can be an adaptive advantage, but it can also be a bit of a trap in giving us an inflated view of our maturity.” – Jenny Brown, The Leader’s Journey
  • Most leaders just don’t want to be the “first to fall apart,” but the problem with that is we’re not dealing with that tendency to actually fall apart. What if that weakness is still there?
  • Are you just looking for a technique? Focusing on techniques is the exact opposite of what this way of looking at life and leadership is about. It’s not a technique, it has got to go deeper.
  • We are realizing that the way we’ve been, though it has been very helpful, isn’t actually the best way. There’s an invitation right now to let God deal with that.
  • If you’re willing to go there, then God is willing to go there with you.

2. First Formations

  • First formations are, simply, our knee-jerk reactions to things.
  • “One of the consequences of this was that I grew up knowing a good bit about the teachings of Jesus and was aware of a clear expectation that I should obey those teachings. But the lack of attention to my feelings and my desires left those parts of my inner life as unchecked forces that, especially when relationships grew anxious, would undermine my best efforts to follow the way of Jesus.” – Jim Herrington, The Leader’s Journey
  • “First formation is shorthand to describe the set of experiences we had in childhood and adolescence that shaped how we first learned to see ourselves and the world… You learned a set of relationship habits in which you attempted to maximize the pleasure and minimize the pain.” – Jim Herrington, The Leader’s Journey
  • If you’re a teenager listening to this, this pandemic will form a significant part of your first formation.
  • “What gives our first formation so much power is that the habits we developed happened mostly outside our conscious awareness. As children our brains had not yet developed the capacity to think abstractly, so every experience was concrete. We began to develop a patterned way of dealing with pain in our relationships that shaped our thoughts, our feelings, our will, and our desires. This is the way I am. This is the way the world is.” – Jim Herrington, The Leader’s Journey
  • A personal effect of my first formation: “I always have to be responsible. I have to be strong for the people who follow me. When I’m not strong enough, they’ll suffer. So I have to be the strongest. I don’t want ask for help, because even they can’t help themselves.”
  • I had to be responsible, but what was unspoken was I probably was not. One of the manifestations was that I was super impatient with my teammates and brothers.
  • It goes all the way back to my first formation, which until now, is dictating a lot of my knee-jerk reactions.
  • We’re not saying that you should hate everything that has happened to you so far. What we’re saying is unless we acknowledge what’s going on, we can’t become that calm leader God’s made us to be.
  • What shaped the leadership drives in you?

23:15 – Transformation

  • Transformation is part of God’s plan for you, too.
  • Leadership will change you and it will scar you. But it will be for the better.
  • Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2 (ESV)
  • “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” – Romans 12:2 (The Message)

25:20 – Christianity as a leadership foundation

  • What’s coming next week: discussions on the lifestyle of obedience, a community of grace and truth, and personal reflection
  • This is why I love Christianity as a leadership foundation. With my relationship with Jesus as a foundation, all of these things can be done and applied at such a high level. Christianity can take me deeper and higher than any leadership book can take me.
  • Many leadership principles totally fit in, are supported by, and are balanced by the Bible.
  • In Christianity, I don’t just pray that the underperforming people in my life leave or get fired, I can believe that they’ll be transformed.
  • Without dealing things on the inside, we will just look calm without actually being calm.

29:05 – Application questions

  • What are some of your first formations and how are they affecting your leadership?
  • What circumstances, situations, and even relationships have a way of triggering you?
  • How does the Gospel speak into that?
  • Is there someone you can talk to about it?

30:57 – Prayer

Lord Jesus, please help me to become the leader you’ve called me to be. Lord, I want to be a better leader for the people and the world around me, and for the principles and the causes I espouse.

Lord, I thank You that before You ask us to do something on a macro scale, you want to do something with me as well. I pray,  that for whatever kind of leader I am, that You will help me first to enjoy, taste, and see what it is like to be led by You—the Good Shepherd, the Calm and Kind Leader.

Lord, I  have first formations that have affected me, that have really impacted my life. It’s heavy and it sometimes feels like this is just a default part of me, like it’s too late for this to change in me. Lord, I thank You that there is a version of me that has those experiences in past, but I will no longer be dictated by them in the future.

I pray that faith will rise up inside of me today to believe that I can be different. As I do that, I thank You that You’re going to do a deep dig in my heart—in the way I respond to people, in the way that I talk. I pray this week, as I reflect, that you will bring things to my mind. Even as I get triggered by something, I won’t be discouraged and I will see that God is pointing this out in me, because He loves me. Thank You Lord for what You are doing.

I trust You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

The ENC Leadership Podcast is hosted by Joseph Bonifacio.

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