Don’t put your head in the sand. Deal with it!

A while back I got a phone call from a very good friend who had applied for a new assignment within the large organization for which he works. He told me that the regional manager decided to change the role (and the rules) to make this job a rotating position rather than a permanent assignment. My friend would have the job for six months and then go back to his present assignment again.

Somebody else would rotate in for six months and then back to their previous slot. I told him it was my understanding that he had applied for this job as a new “full time position.” He had, I was told, but the boss decided not to offer it because a certain individual in the organization with seniority would apply and they didn’t want this person to have the job. I asked him why this was and was told that the boss in question had worked with this person before and didn’t want to do it again, so he changed the rules and the assignment to keep them from applying. He was confident they wouldn’t apply for it due to the six-month rotation scenario.

I was told that the “difficult person” in question was somewhat lazy, didn’t have a good work ethic and was generally difficult to work with. I asked the obvious question: Hadn’t anybody ever dealt with this person by confronting their behavior and work ethic? No, was the response. Nobody has the “courage” to do that…not the present boss or anybody else during this person’s tenure with the company.

As I hung up the phone, I was a bundle of mixed emotions–frustrated, confused, perplexed, angry and feeling empathy for my friend. I knew how much he wanted, and probably would have gotten, this job had this “difficult person” not been in the picture. But there wasn’t anything he could do about it and those who could, wouldn’t, and hadn’t .

-Organizational Politics And Personal Cowardice Had Won Again-

As I sat musing over this phone call, I thought of how many times I had seen this in my years of leadership. I have come to the conclusion that many leaders would rather leave their organization, change the rules (as in the case described above), lie, or do almost anything rather than confront  people or issues that need to be dealt with. I was on a team years ago where the leader was totally incompetent and everybody knew it, including our regional leader. It was well within the authority of the regional leader to dismiss, or at least confront this person, and suggest alternative jobs, but he instead created a team to compensate for the person’s inabilities and kept him around. After a year or so he was finally let go, but it should have happened much earlier. It would have been the best for all concerned. But the courage was not there.

What, it seems to me, is lacking in the above described situations, and numerous others I have experienced and read about, is courageous leadership. The willingness to make the tough calls, the hard decisions. The courage to do the right thing, which may not always be the popular thing.  The courage to face the music and not dance around or plan around the person or the issue. I have seen this tendency of avoidance in churches, in Christian organizations, in politics, in the military and in many business settings. There is the fear of litigation or recrimination, the fear of making an unpopular decision or being disliked by peers, or the fear of loosing money, position or power.

A number of years ago, I made a decision that I would pray regularly for the courage to confront and collide when necessary and called for. I am still working at being faithful to my decision. It is not easy and is often misunderstood. Two passages of scripture have helped me in my resolve. The first passage contains stern words by Jesus, warning the listening multitude to beware of popularity, which is high on a lot of leader’s priority list.

“There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests…your job is to be true, not popular.” – Luke 6:26, The Message

Then, there is a wonderful statement by Caleb when he reflects back on the honest, but unpopular, stand he and Joshua took when they were outnumbered by the naysayers–a stand for which they came close to be stoned to death for.

“I was forty years old at the time, and Moses had sent us from Kadesh-Barnea to spy out the land of Canaan. I reported what I felt was the truth.” – Joshua 14:7, The Living Bible

The phrase “I reported what I felt was the truth.” has motivated me on numerous occasions when I was fearful of speaking out, taking a stand, or confronting a person or issue. There are other biblical passages that encourage me to do and say what I perceive to be true, right and appropriate rather than what is politically or organizationally correct, but these two are my favorites. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating being nasty and having an “in your face” attitude. I am simply voting for honesty, truthfulness, and the courage of one’s convictions. Isn’t that part of being a courageous leader as we shepherd, develop, equip and empower others to achieve a God-given and God-pleasing vision?

Think About It:

  1. What issue or person comes to mind that you need courage to deal with?
  2. Write down the fears or factors that are keeping you from doing what is right and God honoring.
  3. When will you do it and who can you recruit to pray for you and with you as you step out?