A Leadership Lesson
By Jason Wilkie
Executive Director, Camp Siloam
I was watching a documentary on the Irish rock band U2; one of the great rock bands in music history. In the documentary Bono, the lead singer for U2, made a comment that seemed humorous at the time, but it is an idea I have thought about quite a bit as a ministry leader. When asked about the creative process of song writing, Bono said, “We don’t really know what we’re doing and when we do, it doesn’t seem to help.”
The laughability of Bono’s admission is that, in spite of U2’s success, he openly admits what many leaders fear - that we might be exposed as incompetent. Most leaders have a deep desire to be the visionary that knows with confidence where to take the ministry, but deep-down, leaders have doubts. Patrick Lencioni acknowledged this in an Andy Stanley leadership podcast called “The Motivation of a Leader with Patrick Lencioni, Part 1.” Lencioni said, “During this time be exceedingly human. Be upfront and vulnerable with people.” If there is any silver lining in the COVID-19 pandemic, it is that it has been okay for leaders to admit that they do not always know what to do.
The scriptural support for leading without any idea what to do is 2 Chronicles 20:12. In this scene King Jehoshaphat is made aware that collective armies of surrounding nations are descending upon Israel. Jehoshaphat calls his people together. He tells them that doom is at their door and the strategy, the defense, is going to be to pray. Then he lifts up a prayer of intercession and rescue which ends with one of my favorite lines in scripture “We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
King Jehoshaphat demonstrates how to lead when times are uncertain, information is changing daily, and your strategic plan is worthless. This sounds cliché, but great ministry leaders humble themselves, are vulnerable, and look to Jesus when times are uncertain. When there is no strategy, then prayer is the strategy.
After a tornado one can look around and assess what needs to be done. One can visualize what it takes to get to the other side. I know this, I have experience in tornadoes. In the COVID-19 crisis I couldn’t see what needed to be done to get through. Out of desperation I prayed, “Jesus, we can’t see the other side of this crisis. You say You are the light. Light our way through the darkness of this crisis. Show us our next step.” (John 1) When the way through still was not clear I told Jesus, “You say You are The Way. I doubt if you meant The Way through the COVID-19 crisis, but I’m going to trust that You are the way through all things.” (John 14:6)
I am learning in this pandemic it is okay to admit a lack of understanding, knowledge, and vision. It is important to ask staff to pray scripture and fast at a different level. I asked God to make our staff like the Sons of Issachar, “men who understood the times and could direct Israel in what to do.” I didn’t care who got the blessing. I was so desperate I just wanted direction from Heaven!
More than providing understanding, answers and direction, our heavenly Father wants us all to draw close to Him when we don’t know what to do. He just wants us close. The Father answered my prayers with peace. Maybe the best leadership lesson of COVID-19 is to humble ourselves, admit we don’t know what to do and let others join us in watching God work in our ministries no matter what the circumstances.