Monday, October 25

Thoughts on Leadership - Tension is Good

The theme of Catalyst, which our staff attended a few weeks ago was "Tension is Good." That seems counter-intuitive at first glance, but if we think about it we realize that it is tension that allows us to grow, mature, move forward, and reach new territories - both personally and organizationally. It is the tension in a violin or guitar string that allows it to make music. It is the tension in a pole vaulter's pole that sends him over a crossbar three times his height.

Tension isn't a negative in and of itself. We need it. But we need to learn how to properly deal with it personally and organizationally. Tension can produce opportunity or stress, all depending on how we choose to respond to it. As I consistently tell my students, "All stress if self-induced." Stress is a result of how we choose to respond to tense or difficult "opportunities". (I'm not sure my students believe me.)

Here are some thoughts on tension for us who serve as leaders. They come from a variety of sources, with major contributions from Andy Stanley.

Every leader has a motivating tension. That's what keeps us moving and pressing forward - the thing that drives us to achieve. What is the motivating tension in your life? How can you harness it to be more effective - not just professionally or organizationally, but personally and spiritually?

Tension adds depth to our story. A movie without tension is a boring movie. The tension and its resolution is what makes a good story a good story. A life without tension is boring. It is often lived without a sense of our need for God or testimony of God's work in our life. The tension in your life enhances your dependence on God, gives Him room to work, and adds depth to the story of your relationship with God.

Every leader should learn to overcome the fear of tension. Leaders shouldn't dread tension but realize that it is an inherent part of leadership. In fact, tension tells you a lot about your organization and its needs.

It is impossible to love people and avoid tension.

Our role as a leader is to break through the tension to something significant. Tension is necessary for any organization that wants to make progress. Great organizations learn to use tension. The role of leadership is to leverage the tension to the benefit of our life and organization.

Tension is a powerful platform to clarify what is important. Tension helps us identify our priorities and the things in our life or organization that interfere with those priorities.

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