As part of our commitment at OFC to be principle driven leaders, I have made a list of more than 75 principles that guide our actions and decisions. “Leaders define reality and offer hope” is #10 on the list.
My mentor, Dr. Crawford Howe, says the role of a leader in a difficult situation is to “define reality and offer hope.” It’s the “and” part that gets lost in practice sometimes.
I have known some leaders who were wonderful definers of reality. They could tell you just how bad things were with amazing attention to detail. Whether it was the national debt or the wages of sin, their approach was almost gleeful. Assigning blame regularly followed their definition of reality. By the time these leaders finish preaching on hell; it’s almost as if they’re glad sinners will eventually get theirs, churches will eventually fail, and all things American will collapse. For these leaders though, the story ends there, with blame and bewilderment as to how someone could be so stupid for so long. They make a career out of criticism, but lack the courage to respond to the call of duty.
Then there are leaders at the other end of the “and” spectrum. They ignore reality and blissfully talk of better days. There is no discussion as to the necessary short term chaos in the interest of long term constructive movement; just rainbows and lollipops, and forgiveness without repentance. They want everyone to love them, no one to hurt, and consequently everyone perishes.
The truth is whether you are trying to turn a life, a church, a business, or a nation around, there has to be a realistic analysis of where we are, how we got here (assigning blame, however, unless you’re running for office, is almost inconsequential), and the potential for a new day that lies ahead.
And…there is always potential for a new day. It’s one of the things I love about the Gospel. Jesus is full of hope. So, as a leader don’t allow yourself to do one without the other. Of course, define reality, but also offer hope.
“Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.” (Matthew 12:18-21)