Leadership: The Journey
‘Leadership is a journey, not a destination. It is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a process, not an outcome.’
(John Donahoe, President of eBay)
This quote highlights a common mistake that leaders make: although we encourage people to have vision, to dream of the ‘what if?’ rather than just settle for the ‘what is’, we often fail to pay sufficient attention to the journey between the ‘what is’ and the ‘what if?’. There is always a journey between those two reference points.
That journey is:
- the desert that the Israelites had to cross
- the wall that they had to rebuild around Jerusalem
- the sacrifices they had to make when heeding Ezra’s challenge to return to the Promised Land
The journey is such an important part of the leadership role; in fact, God places the journey in front of us because it is that journey – often through desert, in the face of great opposition, with the temptation to give up or compromise always before us – that we are made ready to move into the ‘what if?’ (For further insight into this, why not read the book: ‘The Journey’, available at: resources.kingfisher.org.uk)
Leaders overlook the importance of the journey at their peril. They need not only to cast vision for what the ‘promised land’ looks like, they also need to cast vision for what the journey along the way looks like.
Without attention being paid to the journey, the people the leader is pointing towards the ‘promised land’ will grow weary and disillusioned; the vision of ‘what if?’ be supplemented by the encouragement that the ‘what needs to be supplemented by the encouragement that the ‘what is’ is changing and the people are growing through those changes.
Why does God always place a journey between the ‘what is’ and the ‘what if’?
- The journey can be transformational. It is the environment where we are tested and refined, making us ready for the destination
- The journey can be clarifying. On it, we are presented time and again with the question: ‘Is this worth it?’. How much do I want this vision to come to pass?
“At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him.”
- The journey can be refining. Not everyone who sets out on the journey with us will end it with us. No one who sets out on the journey will be the same by the end of it. We are refined along the way. Some ‘sacred cows’ will be slain, some ‘excess baggage’ will be left behind, some attitudes that we thought were godly will be tested and found to not be from him after all.
A wise leader pays attention, not just to the vision – the picture of the ‘promised land’ – but to the journey to get there. Where are you, currently, on the journey between ‘what is’ and ‘what if?’ Take time to review the journey that you and those you lead are on.
Important points along the journey:
As you lead others along the journey, don’t forget your own, personal journey
If you can’t lead yourself, you can’t lead others. You are either going to grow as a disciple and as a leader, or you are going to stagnate. You are not going to stand still . The journey you are leading others on will only be as successful as the journey you are leading yourself on.
Recognise the important balance of big picture vision and small wins
If all that is focussed on is the end result, then people are going to get disheartened pretty early on. The end will seem no nearer than when you first saw it for a long time! The journey is made up of a whole series of ‘small wins’ – community growth, faith steps, discipleship maturity as the result of setbacks, and so on. Celebrate the wins and see them for what they are: vital steps along the journey.
Understand and recognise the ‘low points’ in a journey
There are always ‘low points’ in any journey, and wise leaders will recognise when these are most likely to occur so that they can be ready for them.
The most common ‘low points’:
• When the cost first becomes apparent
• When the journey is halfway done
• When reversals hit and people start wondering: where is God in all this?
• When team mates abandon us
Leadership steps to manage the journey: Refocus when you hit a low point (Nehemiah 4:14a)
Recognise that on this journey, the end does not justify the means. The point of the journey is to get us ready for the destination, not to compromise in order to reach the destination (Nehemiah 5:1 – 13)
Build trust through a personal walk of integrity, and through clear and accurate communication. (Nehemiah 5:14-18)
Remember that people need motivation that touches their personal lives (Nehemiah 4:14b).
Kingfisher Family celebrates its 30th birthday
Resources to help us lead along the journey
This book looks at the forty-year journey that the Israelites took between leaving captivity in Egypt
and arriving at the Promised Land. They were sent on that journey to learn some crucial, nation-building lessons – lessons that laid the foundations for the kind of nation they were destined to become when they were finally in the Promised Land.