Real Leaders Have Hard Conversations

Tuesday Re-mix –

…speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.  Ephesians 4:15

Am I the only one who thinks “Pastor” should be one of Mike Rowe’s “Dirty Jobs” episodes on the Discovery Channel?

Thinking about another truth my Dad taught me about the church.

Those of you who know Dad know that he is certainly capable of “stirring the pot” even to the point of conflict.  That capability is, I think, actually a reflection of a particular leadership skill he possesses…he is capable of having the hard conversations in a church.  You know the conversations I mean: the ones nobody else on the staff wants to have, the ones which may prove to be a bit awkward, even painful.  I have watched him in ministry for all of my 52 years on this earth and, whether as a pastor or a denominational worker, or even as a Sunday School teacher, I have known Dad to step up to the plate many, many times when a hard thing needed to be said or conveyed.

This is not a lesson he has ever spoken to me, at least not that I can remember.  Rather, this is a lesson I learned from watching him all these years.  Real church leaders, the ones who are genuine influencers, are the ones who are willing to sit down and have that very difficult conversation which nobody else wants to have.  The pretend leaders, on the other hand, will avoid those conversations at all costs.

You know well the conversations I mean…

…that volunteer who needs to be “counseled out” of a particular ministry position…

…that employee whose gossip is becoming a problem…

…that Sunday School teacher who cannot seem to keep his favorite theological quirk out of any of his lessons…

…that church matriarch who is being divisive…

…that childcare worker who keeps avoiding the background check protocols…

…that curmudgeon who writes those hateful letters every single week to the pastor…

I could go on and on.   After all, there are infinite examples because there is an apparently unlimited supply of issues and difficulties with which church leaders are faced.  But the point is this: if you cannot muster the courage to speak the truth in love to a brother, if you constantly push the hard conversations off to others, then you are not a leader…not really.  Maybe you’re a manager.  Or maybe you hold some official title that sounds like a leader.  Maybe you are popular on some level, even well-liked to some extent, but you are not a leader.

Jesus was a leader.  And when you think about it, most of His words that ended up in scripture were the hard ones.  So how is it that we allow ourselves to believe our leadership role is going to be different?  It is not…because real leaders have hard conversations.

Oh, and one last word on this subject for those of us who are inclined toward technology.  You cannot have a hard conversation by e-mail or by text or even by telephone.  You have them face to face.  If you are a leader, that is.

© Blake Coffee
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One response to “Real Leaders Have Hard Conversations”

  1. Amen, Blake! I did that just the other day with a woman who, I am certain, isn’t even aware of the negativity of her comments and actions. Sadly, it is to the point that even her best and long-time friends are desserting her. The shock on her face when I stepped into a conversation in which she was berating a friend outside of my office and then shared with her that, first of all, the secretary had not made the decision this person was unhappy about and therefore was incapable of changing it and secondly, perhaps her time, over the past year would have been better spent working with the committees she is to oversee instead of allowing the year to go by and then be unhappy because she cannot complete the task assigned her.
    How sad to watch her face as she tried to come to grips with the ‘mirror’ we held in front of her. She quickly left saying that “Now I’m upset.” But I would dare say she has accomplished more, positivey, in the past two weeks than she had in the last year and her demeanor, while not friendly by any stretch of the imagination, has been at least no longer hostile.
    It would have been much easier for me to sit at my desk, as I have done many times over the past year, and let her continue her brow-beating but the time for healing and reconciliation has come. I don’t know if we will be successful, but we have a wonderful leader who keeps our eyes and hearts focused in the right place and there are many of us who are working in that direction. I hope that what I did helps in some small way.
    Thanks for always providing encouragement and perspective! God’s Blessings!

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