Archives For Leadership

When I have conflict with my wife, my kids, or with people at work, I want to retreat and just pray the tension will go away.  But that never solves the problem.

Resolving Conflicts

Resolving Conflicts

Most people hate confronting conflict.  But that often adds to the crisis.  Conflicts rarely get better simply with time.  They must be worked through in order to reach some understanding and ultimate resolution.

In today’s post I want to give you biblical principles for working through tensions between you and others.  I use these principles to work through conflicts in my family and at work.  As a Pastor, I am often asked for advice on such matters.  This is what I tell them.

Principle #1:  Sooner rather than later.  Jesus said, “Settle matters quickly with your adversary.” (Matthew 5:25)  It is usually best to address an issue sooner rather than later.  Putting things off only makes things worse, addressing them quickly values the relationship and communicates you care.

Principle #2:  Face to face is often best.  Working through relational conflict or misunderstanding is a tender process.  It involves sensitive communication and listening skills.  This is not often achieved through the phone and even less effective when done through texts or emails.

It is often said that only 7% of communication comes through words, the rest is accomplished through voice tone and body language.  Obviously, face to face communication will accomplish so much more.  Texting through conflict almost always cultivates ground for deeper misunderstandings.

Principle #3:  Know why you are meeting.  It is good to know why you are getting together to resolve the conflict.  Here are three good reasons for meeting to work through an issue…

  1. When I know I am in the wrong.  Jesus says, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there…first go and be reconciled to your brother.” (Matthew 5:23-24)  Too many people, even when they know they are in the wrong, fail to make it right.  Many conflicts could easily be resolved by coming and saying a heartfelt, unqualified “sorry.”
  2. When I believe I have been wronged.  If we think we have been wronged and that it needs to be worked through for the relationship to be healthy, go and work through it.  Don’t go talking to everyone else about it.  Go to the person with whom you have become crossways.
  3. When I am not sure what is wrong.  This can happen a lot.  You are not really sure what has gone wrong, but you know it is something.  It is good to meet with the person to ask if something is wrong.

Principle #4:  Humility is a necessity.  Don’t expect relational conflicts to resolve without a humble demeanor.  Arrogance and self-righteousness causes the other person to put up defenses.  When we fail to be humble, often we miss just how much we might have contributed to the issue at hand.

Do these three things to approach the issue with a humble spirit…

  1. Do a self exam.  Jesus says we are to “get the plank out of our own eye.”  So often we are a part of the problem.  Take an honest look at yourself and the part you played in the relationship that is currently hurting.  Sometimes the opening line of a meeting to work through conflict can be, “I have seen that I have contributed to your frustration.  I am sorry about that and wanted to talk it over with you.
  2. Choose not to be easily offended.  Assume the best from people.  Rarely do people seriously seek to hurt those around them.  Sometimes it is very unintentional.  Cut some slack and try not to take everything personally.
  3. Put yourself in their shoes.  Maybe you are upset with them, but what if you were in their situation.  Think about it.  Sometimes that will provide just the insight you need to feel better about the situation and give you the empathy you need to forgive them.

Principle #5:  Communicate for clarity.  There could be a lot more said here.  I will write about it in future posts.  But suffice it to say you have to share your thoughts, perceptions, concerns, hurts, fears, and wants.  It is the only way to be understood and eventual work through the issues that have you in conflict.

Question:  Do you have other principles for conflict resolution that have helped you.  Share it with us.  You can leave a comment by clicking here.

I had led our people to achieve something truly big, everyone was celebrating the victory.  On the outside I celebrated as well.  But inside I was tired, lonely, fatigued, and struggled with a sense of failure.  I was depressed.



These kinds of emotions can touch any Christian leader, whether that leadership is in business, education, government, or the church.  Consider the example of Elijah.

Elijah was a great prophet who spoke God’s Word in perilous times.  The King and Queen had led the people away from their faith in the One True God into an idolatrous worship of a false god.  They had persecuted and killed the LORD’s prophets.  Elijah challenged the religious leaders of the false god to a showdown.

Two sacrifices were offered, one to the false god and one to the LORD.  Elijah said the one who consumes the sacrifice by fire is the true God.   As you would expect the false god did not consume the offering, but the LORD did.  The people shouted, “The LORD—he is God!” (1 Kings 18:39)  Elijah’s faith was vindicated and his cause gained the victory.

You would think Elijah would be jubilant.  He was not.  The Queen, upset about her defeat, threatened to kill Elijah.  The prophet ran for his life.  He ran and ran, collapsed under a tree and prayed that he might die.  He went from celebration to depression.

Elijah had experienced four conditions that can trigger depression in a leader.

What are those conditions?

  1. A victory achieved.  Elijah had experienced a victory.  It seems counter-intuitive to think that he would be down after that.  But this is typical.  Often times we can have a let-down after an achievement.  We dream of hitting the pinnacle of success, we dream and dream.  But then we reach the pinnacle and we say to ourselves, “Is this it?  What do I do now?”  Have you ever felt this let-down after completing something important?  It’s normal.
  2. A failure perceived.  Sure Elijah had seen God bring the victory.  But with the Queen threatening his life, it was obvious many in Israel were still living in rebellion to God.  Elijah’s mission was to point the people to God.  So he felt like a failure.  We can always find something to focus on in our lives that can make us feel like we failed.  When I was depressed after a great victory, I focused on the opportunities I had missed or the things yet to be achieved.
  3. A loneliness that goes unrelieved.  Elijah had reasons to feel alone for a long time.  For years he felt like a lone voice in the wilderness and now he was alone, running for his life.  When we are lonely we can easily struggle with our faith, and if it is severe we can even despair of life.  Leadership always has a touch of loneliness attached to it.  But we must never allow ourselves to pull away from community and deep friendships.  We must have caring people to talk to and lean on.  I do not know what I would have done without such people in my life at times when I was down.
  4. A pace that results in growing fatigued.  The prophet had been on a relentless ministry run for years.  He had spoken God’s Word, confronted the King, challenged the followers of a false god, and run for his life.  He was tired.  It was Vince Lombardi who said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”  When you get tired, for long enough, your will, your faith, can falter.  It is so important that you take care of yourself, get rest, eat right, and find godly ways to meet your emotional needs.

Knowing that these conditions can trigger depression in a leader is the first step in heading things off at the pass.

Question:  How can being aware of these triggers help you navigate through the down times in leadership?  You can leave a comment by clicking here.

The advance of any community, organization, or institution is dependent on the quality of its leadership.  Governments, schools, industries, businesses, or churches only advance when skilled leaders are at the helm.  Raise the level of those leaders and you raise the impact of organizations.


Leader Reading

How do you do it?

The Bible wisely observes, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17, NIV)  The idea is a person’s skill level is honed to a fine edge when the person shares their experience with another who is likewise striving for excellence in the same field.

Though not all readers are leaders, all leaders are readers.  A great way to improve your skill is to glean lessons from the experience of others through books.  Reading on leadership enables you to learn from another person’s journey.  For decades, I have been reading on leadership as I have sought to enhance my own.

Even better than reading leadership books is to read leadership books as a member of a Leadership Book Group.  Such a group can really fulfill the “iron sharpens iron” objective.

What do I mean by Leadership Book Group?  Glad you asked!

About 14 years ago I formed my first group.  I wanted to raise the level of Christian leadership in my church.  I gathered a small group of professionals who led in a variety of venues in the community:  business, medicine, education, law, and ministry.  As the facilitator of the group I asked each member to make a commitment to participate in the group for a number of months.

We agreed on a list of leadership-oriented books to read during the agreed upon time period.  We met a few times each month to discuss the books and share our own leadership experiences.  The insights gained were invaluable.

We all led in very different organizations, but at a fundamental level our leadership challenges had much in common.  We would learn from each other, but as Christians we would also actively pray for one another.  We became better leaders.

Since that time I have formed many such groups.    I find when Christian leaders grow together in leadership, they tend to have more influence for the Kingdom of God.

I am leading a group right now.  It is amazing watching leaders glean lessons from books and help each other implement the principles in their specific settings.

Often, I have former group members call me and thank me for the role a group played in their life and leadership.  In fact, a man texted me just the other day thanking me for a group I led six years ago.

Are you a leader that wants to sharpen your skills?  Consider starting a group.  Here are some simple steps you can take…

  1. Gather a group of leaders.  It’s easy!  Just start by asking other leaders you know.  You will be surprised how many will say yes.  Leaders are hungry for this kind of experience.
  2. Choose a group from varying fields.  Leadership principles are universal to all organizations.  It can be very helpful to learn from people who are in somewhat different settings than you.
  3. Agree on a lifespan for your group.  How long will your group last?  Most people like to join something that has a clear end.  I have done groups for as long as a year and as brief as 14 weeks.
  4. Decide on a regular time and place to meet.  Often we have met at a local restaurant for breakfast twice a month.  The group I lead now meets at church each Wednesday evening.  We only meet for an hour or so.  Do what is right for you.
  5. Determine the books you will read and discuss.  As the facilitator you might want to make several suggestions to choose from.  But listen to the group.  They will have good ideas.  You might choose books like…John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Henry and Richard Blackaby’s Spiritual Leadership, Albert Mohler’s The Conviction To Lead, or Bill Hybel’s Axiom.  There are so many options!
  6. Pray.  Ask God to sharpen your group’s leadership and strengthen your friendships.
  7. Start meeting.  Set the date, buy the books, read, and start meeting.

Question:  Have you read a great leadership book, perhaps with a Christian emphasis?  Will you share it with us?  You can leave a comment by clicking here.