The viral pandemic launched a plethora of secondary pandemics. Several are obvious, like the anger pandemic we’ve all felt and perhaps experienced. Others are more subtle. As a leader, you have experienced your fair share of subtle, secondary leadership problem pandemics. Which is the worst? It’s difficult to say with certainty, but as I scan the horizon of leadership today, the effect on decision-making may be the most devastating resultant pandemic.
Are You Waiting for Others to Solve Your Leadership Problem?
1. A decision-making pandemic:
Early in the pandemic, it felt as if I made 20 decisions a day with full knowledge that 19 would require reconsideration within 24 hours. Nothing was stable. Nothing was certain. Not to mention a complete lack of historical information to pull from in the decision process.
I bet your experience was similar. It felt virtually impossible to lead the organization forward without any present clarity or past history.
After all, that is how we typically make decisions. We consider our present circumstances and then look for similar past experiences. Evaluating past mistakes and successes informs current choices. But, when there is no present clarity or historical data, it positions leaders in a terribly difficult position. Welcome to leadership today.
The on-slot of problems without clear solutions took a mental and emotional toll on every leader. That damage doesn’t resolve easily or quickly. Overall, the world is somewhat better now, but this specific leadership pandemic still exists. Why?
2. Building to our current leadership pandemic
Leaders spent so many days, weeks, and months second-guessing and being second-guessed that a version of analysis paralysis set in. And it set in deeply.
As the pandemic raged on, rather than make decisions, leaders began choosing to pause a little bit longer. We waited for any amount of clarity to surface. And — this is important — we started looking around to see what other leaders were doing. Leaders decided to start going second.
In the early days of the pandemic, when we were uncertain how to lead forward, we waited for someone else to go first. It was a panic and protective move. And it carried consequences beyond that moment.
3. An example: Deciding when to reopen our North Point campus locations
I watched this first hand. Until recently, I served at North Point Ministries as a campus lead pastor. When the pandemic began, we took two weeks off. We quickly realized the pandemic was more severe and decided to close until further notice. Publicly that was our stance (and we took a lot of heat for it), but internally we began looking at potential reopening dates. May? June? Late summer?
As a group, we decided August 2020 would be our target. We began communicating this date as our hopeful reopening. As the summer started and the virus continued to spread, Andy Stanley called a meeting to consider our reopening options. I participated in the discussion, leaving with an agreement to remain closed for all of 2020. If you’re in the church world, you’ll remember this going public.
It didn’t take long for news to spread. CNN interviewed Andy. The decision was all over the news and social media. It was primarily newsworthy because so many other leaders were waiting for people like Andy to go first.
I get it. Andy and North Point make a lot of great decisions. But if copying the decisions of another leader becomes our primary method of decision-making, we’ve abdicated our leadership and positioned our organization for eventual failure.
4. Waiting for other leaders to make our decisions
Now, 18 months into the pandemic, too many leaders have allowed abdication of decision-making to become habitual.
More than ever before, I am watching leaders stare down the barrel of a problem, but rather than solving it, they are waiting on some other leader in some other organization to make the first move. They’ve developed a habit of abdication.
This isn’t an entirely new phenomenon. We have for a long time lived with leadership infatuation. We worship celebrity leaders by mimicking their decisions and implementations. At times that is smart. Most famous leaders have large organizations full of great leaders who collectively help make good decisions.
But no leader understands how to solve your leadership problem because no leader is as close to your organization, industry, and community as you. You are the one perfectly positioned to lead because you are the leader.
I’m certainly not suggesting we ignore other leaders. That’s arrogant. I am proposing that a dependence on the decisions of other leaders is unhealthy leadership. It’s actually not even leadership.
Rather than waiting on some other leader who doesn’t know your specific situation or problem to offer a solution for you to mimic, ask yourself these problem-defining questions and start making some decisions:
- What would a great leader do?
- If a new leader took over tomorrow, what would they do?
- What will happen if we allow this problem to remain unresolved?
- Why am I afraid to make a decision, really?
- Do I need another leader to create permission for me to make a decision?
Too many leaders are waiting for another leader in another organization to solve their leadership problem. That’s not leadership. If you are a leader, it’s time to lead. It’s time to decide. It’s time to solve problems and create pathways forward.
You probably won’t get every decision correct. That’s part of leadership. The one thing I can guarantee is not making a decision is the wrong decision.
This article about the leadership problem pandemic originally appeared here, and is used by permission.