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The Power of Pressure in Leader DevelopmentMalcolm Webber
In our last Letter we looked at the power of pressure in leader development.
There are several cautions we must observe as we introduce pressure into the lives of emerging leaders:
- It is not true that “the more we make them suffer, the more they will grow.” God allows suffering in our lives, but He does so wisely. We should not just callously or arbitrarily throw people into the fire, thinking this will automatically improve them. We should be intentional and careful about exposing emerging leaders to various forms of pressure. A boxer said to his manager, “I want to fight the champ.” The manager said, “No, you’re not ready for the champ.” “But I want to fight him. I’m ready. Why can’t I fight him?” “Because,” said the manager, “you’ve only so many fights in you, and it’s my job to pick the right ones.” In the same way, we need to protect our emerging leaders by carefully designing what they experience.
- It is not the suffering itself that purifies us – it is how we respond to the suffering that counts. Suffering can go both ways – it can hurt us or help us (Matt. 21:44). Sadly, the reality is that most people are hurt through their suffering.
- It should not be a constant fire. God allows us to suffer for “a little while” (1 Pet. 1:6; 5:10); this suffering is not continuous, but periodic, from time to time.
- It should not be to the extent that it destroys them. God does not allow us to be tested beyond what we can bear (1 Cor. 10:13).
- In the midst of suffering and pressure, emerging leaders need comfort. When God allows suffering, He often does not give deliverance from it, but comfort in it (2 Cor. 1:3-5). God allows us to go through the fire, but He does not leave us alone in the fire (Dan. 3:25). Thus, before we introduce pressure, we must ensure that a supportive community has first been built around the emerging leaders.
Here are some specific ways in which pressure can be created to build character in emerging leaders:
- Difficult assignments that are beyond their ability. Jesus left his disciples to deal with the demonized boy when it was beyond their capacity (Matt. 17:16). A new situation where mistakes in action and judgment may become obvious to others demands genuine humility and moral courage.
- Giving them the opportunity to give up (cf. John 6:67).
- Confusing assignments that are unclear or ambiguous.
- Multiple assignments of different kinds at the same time.
- Simply being required to work in teams; this is very hard for some people.
- “Interesting” team combinations. (Do not put all the “people-people” together in the same teams.)
- Changing teams regularly.
- Circumstantial accidents.
- Specific assignments that create possible rejection, etc.
- Humbling service.
- Limited resources.
- Challenging ministry responsibilities.
- Balancing relationships and tasks.
- Spontaneous assignments.
As we prayerfully and carefully introduce pressure into our leader development design, we will give our emerging leaders the opportunity to more deeply embrace the cross and the resurrection life that follows.