What if turnaround leadership was a matter of following a few simple rules about how pastors behave, and that these behaviors are as important as – if not more so – than what pastors do?
In our upcoming book Pastor Unique: Becoming a Turnaround Leader we reveal groundbreaking research demonstrating that turnaround pastors behave differently pastors than ineffective turnaround leaders. Elsewhere I’ve written about the First rule of turnaround leadership.
The second rule of turnaround leadership may surprise you. Simply stated, effective turnaround leaders slow down when they’re making important decisions!
A seminal chapter of the book discusses one of the most surprising findings – that effective leaders are slower to make important decisions.
The Thought Need Component score is another statistically significant difference between TAPs and NTAPs and the second Need score that distinguishes the two groups. Of all of our findings, this was the most surprising.
It is surprising because it is counterintuitive.
What we’ve discovered is that turnaround pastors (TAP) are on average more thoughtful, reflective and cautious decision-makers than are nonturnaround pastors (NTAP). TAPs need to take ample time to evaluate options, weigh opinions and think about consequences. They need to seek the counsel of others and to take time to discuss things with others. TAPs will spend time staring out the window, pondering the nuances and various shades of gray that constitute any important decision. TAPs are more reflective than decisive.
That is an unexpected finding.
Let’s look at this from the opposite perspective, that of NTAPs who struggle to lead turnaround churches. [They] push a default choice for convention and tradition, which dovetails nicely with their wish to avoid conflict and to focus on one thing at a time. Because their Thought Need scores are lower, and accompanied by the need to see things in black and white (or should we say a discomfort with ambiguity?), they grasp solutions quickly and act with minimal reflection.
NTAPs are the “doers” who take action as quickly as possible.
We didn’t see this one coming!
So what is going on here? This merits further research, but in lieu of that, we have a theory. Perhaps NTAPs are prone to focus more on the What more than on the Why. One is concrete (what am I going to do?) and the other is abstract (why should I do this?) Since they prefer to move through the day focusing on one thing at a time, and because they experience discomfort in the face of ambiguity, they make decisions quickly to get them out of the way.
Turnaround pastors take more time to think before deciding
Effective church revitalization leaders are willing to linger in their indecisiveness. They take time to wrestle with ambiguity. They explore all options. They consult advisors and colleagues. They game out potential outcomes.
If you’re predisposed to the “ready, fire, aim!” way of making decisions, there are several disciplines you can practice until a slower, more deliberate decision making process becomes normal behavior for you.
- Practice the discipline of identifying several options for each decision that must be made.
- Then, drill deeper to identify at least three consequences for each option.
- Finally, identify which option is most likely to move the church forward.
Jesus’ example of reflective decision making
When it was time to decide whom among the disciples he would appoint as his apostles, Jesus took time to pray and reflect (Luke 6:12–13).
In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles….
Effective leaders take time to “go out to the mountain to pray” before making important decisions that will influence the direction of their ministry. This is a best practice for theological reasons, and is also supported by our research.
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