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7 Critical Hard-Knock Leadership Lessons

I’m thankful for a solid education at a Christian college and seminary. Really I am. But I have some crucial things that I’ve had to learn the hard way that they don’t teach you in school. Some of you may think: “Only seven!” I’m sure there are a ton of other principles and lessons that I could list or you could (and I encourage you to list them in the comments), but for the purpose of this post, I’m going to go with the first seven that came to me. Here we go…

1. Sleep on It

It’s inevitable. Sooner or later, you are going to have conflict, problems, issues, and disunity in your team. Somebody is going to do something rude, wrong, sinful, careless, hurtful, mean, off-mission, off-vision, or all of the above. It’s bound to happen.

Don’t Miss

If you’re like me, you want to call the person into your office immediately when the issue is brought to your attention and let them have it. I have played potential conversations over and over in my head and thought about exactly what I want to tell the person that rubbed me the wrong way.

The best thing I’ve learned over my 18 plus years of ministry is to sleep on it. Take some time away to allow God to speak to your heart. Often, we are so angry and self-centered that we crowd out the still small voice of the Spirit. My instincts and emotions take over, and I don’t stop to listen and be still.

When I take time away to process, chew on it, reflect, and pray about what God wants me to hear, take away, learn, and grow through the criticism, struggle or pain, I always end up not coming up quite so angry a day or two later. Please know I’m not advocating to procrastinate or dodge a conflict or situation that needs to be resolved. I’m not saying to sit on it indefinitely or brush it aside and pretend it didn’t happen – that usually leads to a bad outcome down the road when you’ve finally had enough, and you blow up on someone, and all your emotions come to a head in one ugly scene.

No, I’m talking about a few days. There have been a couple of serious situations where I’ve taken a week to seek counsel, process the problem with peers, and pray, but for most things, I think just delaying judgment and resolution for a day to sleep on it and pray is wisdom well worth the time.

2. Vent to Your Spouse

The second thing I do when I have a problem with a team member or volunteer at my church (as long as it’s not a confidential matter) is to vent to my wife. There have been countless times where her cool head, demeanor, and perspective have helped me to see things in a different light. Often times, when someone has a disagreement with us, we tend to vilify them and think of them as the enemy. Trust me – they are not the enemy. We have a very real enemy, and it’s not someone you work and serve with.

In sharing my heart with my spouse, I find that it is therapeutic and helps me to process out loud as I’m discussing the situation with her. I can’t tell you how many times my wife has saved one of my peers or team members from my wrath by talking me down and telling me to holster my weapon. Am I the only one that wrestles with this?

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Greg Atkinson is an author, speaker, consultant, and the Founder of the First Impressions Conference and Worship Impressions—both specializing in guest services and hospitality.