“The truth is that focusing on the future sets leaders apart.” Kouzes & Posner
Leaders are custodians of the future. They think about what is next. They spend time wondering how the world will look after today or after this phase is complete. They wonder what will be new. How will things be different?
I’ve been rereading The Truth About Leadership by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. Through their study, they concluded a “forward thinking” attribute, second only to honesty, was a desirable trait in many leaders. People want to know where they are headed together.
Organizations don’t take risks, leaders take risks. If left to themselves, organizations will strive to survive, not thrive. The inward, day to day, operational focus will cause the work to shrivel. But with future thinking leadership, the whole organization can get over the humps and soar toward a new reality with a dynamic vision. Bumps in the road still come, but they don’t impede the progress toward the vision.
Pastors and church leaders are given this task to help the church look toward the future. Here are six thoughts:
Understand Vision is the Lifeblood
Without vision, it’s nearly impossible to sustain energy and excitement. Proverbs 29:18a sums this up so well: “Where there is no vision, the people perish…”
Lift People’s Sights and Spirits
Help people see what could be. Give them a preferred snapshot of the future. As you are sharing the vision, help them become enthused about the possibilities. Starve negativity and feed optimism.
Be Disciplined to Think About The Future
Day to day operations will overtake your future thinking and planning, unless you schedule time. Take a seat in the balcony, take a big picture look at your life, your church and where you are heading. Spend time working on your ministry not just in the day to day decisions. Find a time to specifically think about what is coming up next and where you are headed.
Don’t limit your vision. Sometimes we think about basing the future on what we are currently working with – the current number of volunteers we have, the current size of the building, etc. Try dreaming about a ministry twice your size and make some plans about how to get there.
Talk About The Future
When you are meeting with your teams and leaders, be sure to talk about the direction you are heading. Future thinking leaders don’t just save future talk for one big presentation a year, they weave it into the fabric of everyday conversation. Talking with others about the future also helps bring clarity to the possibilities.
Vision is discovered not invented. As you are praying and seeking God, you begin to grow in his vision for the church. Apart from him you can do nothing.
As the authors of The Truth About Leadership said, “Your people expect you to know where you’re going and to have a sense of direction. You have to be forward looking. It’s the quality that differentiates leaders from individual contributors.”
You are the leader in your church. You must become optimistic about the future and lead your people with vision.
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