Sound, Biblical Advice for Stressed, Stretched, Overwhelmed Leaders

Overwhelmed leaders

There must have been a time when Moses was overwhelmed with responsibility. He may not have recognized it at the time, but if he wasn’t careful he would soon face burnout.

That is somewhat speculation on my part, but it surely must have been what his father-in-law observed as he watched Moses attempt to lead so many people. Wisdom of life and experiences teaches us many things.

It’s one of my favorite leadership stories of the Bible.

If you are currently overwhelmed in leadership there may be something here for you. Grab your Bible and read Exodus Chapter 18.

Sound, Biblical Advice for Stressed, Stretched, Overwhelmed Leaders

Notice Jethro says to Moses, “What you’re doing is not good.” Sounds like the voice of experience to me. He looked into Moses’ life, perhaps a little further down the road than Moses in the middle of leading could see, and he had a strong word of caution for him.

Overwhelmed, stretched, stressed out leader, can I be of voice of wisdom and life experience for you? I hope that’s OK, because I want to be a little more direct with you.

What you are doing is not good.

At least not long-term. There are always seasons. I’m in one now. But those seasons can’t last forever. We were not designed for it. The Sabbath concept was established in our creation.

So, if that’s you, here’s what I see from Jethro’s encouragement to an overwhelmed leader:

Admit reality. Recognize the fallacy of trying to be all things to all people. Realize you can’t do it all. Admit you need help. Raise the white flag to someone. “What you are doing is not good.” (Vs. 17)

Say it with me: What I’m doing isn’t good!  

Seek sound advice. Find some trusted, experienced advisors. (Vs. 19) Ask them to speak into your life. You may have to recruit these voices.

It might not be your father-in-law as it was for Moses. My father-in-law spoke a few nuggets of wisdom in my life, mostly about raising boys. You may not have that advantage, but there are likely wise people around you if you will look for them. You should seek their help.

Step back, evaluate and re-calibrate. What Moses was doing was not sustainable long-term. So, with wisdom applied, Jethro helps Moses develop a better plan going forward. (Vs. 19-21)

By the way, Jethro also inserts a model for finding good people. (Vs. 21) We should find people who are: Capable, Following God, Trustworthy and Honest. I could almost say people who are smart, have ambition and have high character. If you find people who meet those characteristics you can build an effective team.

What’s your plan? Do you need to delegate better? Do you need to practice using the word ‘no’? Do you need to have a hard conversation with your board or your staff? Do you need to discipline your calendar?

Find your best place on the team. Make sure you are majoring on the things only you can do. (Vs. 22) Do what you can do best.

This takes time to develop as a leader. Of course, it requires delegation skills, but it also requires a dose of humility. You have to admit to yourself you can’t do everything. You have to allow others to excel at what they do best—and be willing for them to get the credit for doing them. And, finally, you have to get out of their way and let them do it.

Work the plan. You have to listen and implement the plan. (Vs. 24-26) It wasn’t enough for Moses to have a good plan going forward if he wasn’t willing to follow the plan. Isn’t this why most diets fail? Isn’t this why many people never achieve their goals? It isn’t because they don’t know what to do as much as they don’t do what they know they need to do.

Moses would need to function in this way the rest of his ministry. Someday he would probably even need to advise someone else—some younger leader—maybe like a Joshua—how they could avoid a major pitfall of leadership.

Praying for you overwhelmed, stretched, stressed out leader. I’m pulling for you to be in this for the long-haul. We need you.

This article originally appeared here.

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Ron Edmondson
Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping churches grow vocationally for over 10 years.

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