By DAN HALL
How to lead in a crisis
“But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” – 2 Timothy 4:5
One of my favorite parts of Mississippi Christian Living is the recognition of leadership, both present (see this month’s cover story) and future leaders. 2020 is a great year to evaluate leadership and what it means to lead. Especially during a crisis.
Our nation has experienced a vicious political season; a raging pandemic that refuses to subside; disruptive and, in some cases, destructive social upheaval; and volatile financial undulations. But I grow weary of the word “unprecedented.”
History is replete with similar seasons that provided leaders the opportunity to demonstrate great skill. Neither time nor space allows me even a brief overview of my lifetime, much less the 20th century or the last two millennia. But does anyone remember 2008, or 9/11? This year has not been unprecedented, just disruptive to my plans today.
While we could have interesting and spirited debate around national or even local leaders and their decisions this year, many of us face the daily reality that there are people watching and listening to us as leaders: as parents, as pastors, as business owners or managers, as small group leaders, or in any other role as a positional or relational leader. If “all politics is local,” there’s nothing more local than my family, neighborhood, business or church.
In Paul’s message to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:5, the old man instructs the young man how to lead through crisis with four basic principles.
1. Keep your head in all situations. (Stay calm and lead on.)
Leaders possess two important tools: a steady hand and a steady voice. Both come from a steady heart and mind. Regardless of the hurricane I feel inside, composure breeds confidence in those looking at me. I have never looked back on a time I lost control in frustration as a father, husband or leader, and thought, “Great job, Dan!” I can’t un-say something, but I CAN say later what I’ve had time to consider. That’s why Paul challenges us in Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
2. Endure hardship. (Suck it up, Buttercup.)
I do quite a bit of personal and relational ministry. I have a pretty deep empathy strain that can sometimes make me too “soft” with people. When there are deep wounds and fears, we find great comfort in the Holy Spirit’s ministry to us. There are times, however, when we must rise above our self-pity, our myopic egocentricity, and our demand for comfort. We must draw on Jesus for strength, and lead. Because “they” need us.
3. Do the work of an evangelist. (Lead people to focus on Christ.)
Regardless of the challenges people are facing, their ultimate Source of life, hope and wisdom is Jesus. Two of my favorite verses are John 1:4, “In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind,” and James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
There are two prayers I regularly pray when asked for counsel. First, “God, I know You love them more than I do, so help me both represent You and lead them to You.” Second, “Father, you know what they need, so give me wisdom on what to say.” I would humbly recommend both prayers to anyone in a leadership role.
4. Discharge all the duties of your ministry. (Take care of those entrusted to you.)
When all is said and done, we can’t let the chaos swirling around us or foaming within us prevent us from doing what we need to do to care for those looking to us. When we lie down at the end of the day, our sense of fulfillment is more often greater when we’ve invested life into others, thanking God for the privilege to care for His kids.
Again, Paul helps us by sharing God’s response to his own prayer during a stressful season: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9
Dan Hall is an executive and strategic coach to leaders and executive teams. He also works with organizations on team building, conflict resolution and communication skills. He and his wife, Hazel, have six children and four grandchildren. You can reach him at Dan@OnCourseSolutions.com.