Starting something new can make anyone a little anxious. I can remember when I was hired as the new Atlanta Director for FCA, I had a lot of anxious thoughts. One of those thoughts centered around leadership. When I started this new position I had to decide how I was going lead over 100 staff who really had no idea who I was. In fact, to make things more complex, I was not from the FCA world. I had not led in the field or been where many of my team had been in their years of ministry. I think this can be similar to taking over a new team in athletics. Many of the members of the team have no idea who you are, you may be new to the area or even the culture. In many cases you may be a head coach for the very first time. Regardless of all of these difficult situations though, you and I are given the task to lead.
I had the blessing of learning three principals in leadership that have kept me from capsizing the ship. I believe these principals, if practiced, can benefit new leaders or even seasoned leaders who may be taking on a new mission or casting a new direction. It’s all about leadership pace! President John Quincy Adams once said, “Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” This is great leadership, the combination of patience and perseverance. Could it be that patience and perseverance can help us lead something new toward sustainability?
Three Principals for Leading Something New
I’ve learned a lot about leadership over the years and one important principal I learned is I can never let the need outpace the resources. There is always need but there are never enough resources to meet every need. Starting small means charting a smaller course, taking one step instead of one leap. This is not the absence of risk or courage, in fact it’s quite the opposite. It actually takes more risk and courage to slow down than to speed up an idea or vision. Don’t feel the need to get everything done now, pace yourself and get some small wins to build momentum. I love the Billy Joel line, “Slow down you're doing fine. You can't be everything you want to be before your time.” And you can’t do everything you want either!
Starting small does not mean your vision needs to be small. Great leaders always have large visions, even ones that may seem impossible to achieve. These visions usually require time. You may have a vision to win a state championship and that may be a big vision depending on your history, lack of resources, doubters or other circumstances. Despite all of that, keep the vision! In the classic book The Magic of Thinking Big David Schwartz writes, “Believe it can be done. When you believe something can be done, really believe, your mind will find the ways to do it. Believing a solution paves the way to solution.” Don’t stop believing Big things!
For anything to be sustainable over time it must have deep roots and deep foundation. Whatever it is that starts small but is still big must be deep in its impact. For example if your goal is to win a state championship, then you ask yourself, why is it important for us to win a state championship? Think beyond the trophy and the accomplishment and think about the deeper impact it may have your teams individuals. At FCA we desire to lead every coach and athlete into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His church. “Every” is a big vision and we know we have to start small, with one coach and one athlete before it can be accomplished. The depth comes in thinking, what could happen to campuses around the world if all coaches and athletes grasped the power of Jesus in their heart and led out from there. “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand." -Woodrow Wilson. Make it count!