Have you ever found yourself in a situation where the answer just wasn’t clear? Maybe it was a decision to take a new job in a different city. Maybe it was a really confusing or inconsistent relationship. Maybe it was taking a risk that didn’t seem to have a clear reward.
We face tough decisions every single day. And as a woman, you’re not only facing your own decisions but also navigating the decision making for your family, your team at work, and for some of you, your entire organization.
Leaders live in a constant state of tension. We live between what is and what could be. We straddle the known and the unknown. We wrestle the probable with the possible. We balance status quo with innovation. We have to understand where we are yet convince our teams to keep going.
Leaders live in a constant state of tension. We live between what is and what could be.
If you’re anything like me, sometimes you find yourself frustrated with the complexity you face. Have you ever said things like, “Couldn’t life be easier for just one day? Could I please have a day when I don’t need to make a decision?”
But if all of life were clear shades of black or white—if there were no difficult decisions to be made—there would be no need for leaders. That’s the game-changing reality for us. The great tension and the great responsibility of leadership means navigating the complexity our circumstances present. That’s what we do. It’s who we are. The willingness to engage the tension is what separates us from the pack. It’s what begins to define us as leaders.
When we fully embrace the reality that complexity is our playing field as leaders, it becomes a game changer for how we approach our leadership. We no longer see complexity as a frustration. We see it as an opportunity. Complexity is where our best leadership happens.
Here are 3 keys to effectively leading through chaos:
1. Take the First Step
Embracing the tensions of leadership means being willing to go first. It requires the bravery of a first step. When we as leaders choose to take the first step, those we lead can see our confidence and faith. We can’t rush ahead or get impatient. We must give guidance and coach passionately. Extraordinary leaders lead through the tension. They don’t get lost in it. They don’t get bogged down by it. They push through it to find clarity and provide the next step for others.
2. Face Your Fears
Embracing the tensions of leadership doesn’t mean we don’t face fear. In the complexity we face some of our greatness fears—fear of inadequacy, fear of failure, fear of criticism.
Often the difference between success and stagnation is confronting a fear.
Author Parker J. Palmer wrote in his book, Let Your Life Speak, “’Be not afraid’ does not mean we cannot have fear. Everyone has fear, and people who embrace the call to leadership often find fear abounding. Instead, the words say we do not need to be the fear we have. We do not have to lead from a place of fear, thereby engendering a world in which fear is multiplied.”
You must face your fears. You must choose to face the loneliness of being the only one who sees the potential clearly. You must fight through. You must push through so you can lead others through. And once you lead them through the tension, you will have the privilege of seeing your team experience the joy of a clear moment and a realized victory.
Extraordinary leaders lead through the tension. They don’t get lost in it.
3. Inspire with Hope
Extraordinary leaders offer hope in the midst of intense circumstances. They are aware of how unsettling complexity is to their teams, and they continue to motivate and encourage them through the process. The complexity of leadership is all about seeing through the chaos and casting a compelling vision to lead people through it.
What leadership tension are you facing today? Where is chaos abounding and how could you more intentionally engage it?
Extraordinary leadership takes courage, intuition, discernment, and faith. It takes energy, patience, hope, and determination. When chaos abounds extraordinary leaders guide the way by taking the first step, facing their fears, and inspiring with hope.
(*Excerpts of this post are from Jenni’s book, The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership.)
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