Resilient Leadership

Resilient Christian Leadership


"Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest" (Psalm 55:6).

Have you felt like giving up lately? We all feel like quitting from time to time. The strong feel weak, the wise feel at their wits end, the experienced believe they have nothing left to give, the optimistic lose heart, leaders feel alone and the greatest visionaries lose their buoyancy. Those who usually believe they can "run through a troop and leap over a wall" (Psalm 18:29) become tired. "Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall" (Isaiah 40:30). Stress, time pressures, adversity, failed expectations, broken promises, unjust criticism, feeling of disconnectedness take their tolls. We have all been there.

My hearts goes out to men and women who walk away from God's call and plan, because they have had enough and believe that they lack the strength, faith and focus go on.

For leaders who are Christians, there is an added dimension: knowing that the struggle is also in the spiritual realm and there are forces aimed at manipulating or destroying them, their families, their teams, the work to which they have committed their lives (often at enormous sacrifice) and their influence. It is distressing to watch friends lose their hope, their marriages, their sense of God's call and give up in the face of added pressure to which they are exposed.

Leaders who are Christians (whether in church, business or social milieu) need spiritual, mental and physical resilience, so as not to be overwhelmed by opinion, circumstances, disappointment or opposition.

Over many years, in church life, volunteer groups, business and family life I have had to confront reverses, so what follows comes out of personal experience and observation. I am convinced that God is our (abiding) refuge and our source of strength (Psalm 46:1). He will give you wisdom and help you cope and choose the support you need. He will give you the capacity to lead yourself and your team well. Don't give up. With His help, you can dig deep wells become more resilient and optimistic than ever.

1. Acknowledge the Pressures

When you are in leadership and people know you are a Christian your wisdom and personal strengths will be tested (2 Corinthians 11:16-31). People will have high expectations that you will:

Who is able??? Jesus led by serving; we do well to follow His example.

2. Recognize Your Limits

"God gave me a message to deliver and a horse to ride. Alas, I have killed the horse and now I cannot deliver the message." (19th century Scottish preacher Robert Murray McCheyne. He worked so hard that his health broke and he died at 29.)

Christian-motived leadership (in any sphere, not just "professional ministry") is tough. It involves the usual range of issues associated with leading people, but is complicated because:

  1. they do not want to change
  2. they have their own agendas
  3. there is (always) a spiritual dimension, with real strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
  4. self-talk can become defeatist
  5. negativity can become contagious (it is easier to pull people down than to lift them up)
  6. some people you depend on will fail you, even the best intentioned; don't be shocked
  7. working with difficult people and their expectations/reactions can be an emotional roller-coaster
  8. lack of confidence in others can lead to leaders micro-managing, believing (often erroneously) that this is better than delegating tasks and relying on others to get the job done
  9. in times of difficulty leaders can be abandoned by those they rely on (Elijah, 1 Kings 19:10; Jesus, Mark 14:50, Paul, 2 Timothy 4:10), or be blamed/targeted by them (Moses, Numbers 14:10; David, 1 Samuel 30:6); knocks and set-backs will come; it is easy to be sidetracked by issues, politics, or the demands of other people (cf Nehemiah 6:1-9)
  10. other challenges can include financial reverses, sickness, death of loved ones, sustained community opposition or lethargy
  11. many Christian leaders give up because of burn-out, discouragement, disappointment, unrealized visions, accumulated frustration, sense of rejection, loss of hope and focus and because they believe they have nothing left to give; many qualified and experienced men and women (some of whom I know) are out of Christian ministry today, even backslidden, in part because of situations they have gone through

".... your labour in the Lord is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Work Out Who Drains You ... and Who Sustains You?

"Resilient: "Able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed."

What makes someone resilient? Many businesses employ psychologists to resilience test staff, to see if they will be able to cope in times of pressure. The models I have seen are flawed, but they are a reminder that all leaders have limitations and need to learn how to be resilient.

Leaders who are Christians have the added advantage that God can be their strength in spite of their weaknesses

"I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me." (Psalm 3:5; 55:22)

4. Dig Deeper Wells

"... we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." (Romans 5:3-5)

"... at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9)

5. Try Positive Leadership

Resilience does not imply defensiveness in the face of all the pressures of leadership. Men and women who are bent, stretched, compressed and tested, then bounce back, are better able to provide authentic, transformative and positive leadership. Those who follow them are permitted to trust them. This is reassuring.

Christians who are leaders can be optimistic because:

"They go from strength to strength till each appears before God" (Psalm 84:7)

Extra Tips

"He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord." (Psalm 112:7)


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