In Lead more gently

Making private decisions in a public arena

For the last 30 years of my life I have been in ministry and non-profit leadership.  This is “public arena” leadership.  Sometimes (not always) it feels like I am in a circus act with a ringmaster cracking the whip.  This is not a healthy place to be.

Let me give you an example.  Perfectly rational choices by others are seen in a different light for those of us in public leadership.  Just going on vacation can be a minefield – when others go off to rest people celebrate with them.  When those of us in ministry go off on vacation sometimes people want us to explain and justify all the reasons why and some people judge our choices.  As I mentioned in last week’s blog, these judgments are hard for me.   On the one hand I always try to be respectful of other’s opinions, but on the other hand, like everybody else I crave the right to make choices for my life.

If, like me, you find yourself having to make private decisions in a public arena maybe you will find this helpful.

In order to remain healthy and sound leaders, I believe we need to come to terms with the following:

  • We are human.  Before being leaders, we are people – with the same needs as those we lead.
  • In order to lead effectively we need to take care of ourselves.  This includes times of privacy.  Even if the decisions we make about our private affairs are out there for the public to see, we should afford ourselves the right to make our decisions without feeling compelled to explain our every move.
  • We definitely can’t please all of the people all of the time so let’s prayerfully consider our choices and then give ourselves the right to celebrate them.

Every one of us, no matter how small or large our leadership influence, is a follower too.  For those we follow, lets:

  • Afford them some space to make personal choices.
  • Encourage them to make choices that help them take care of themselves.
  • Validate them whenever we can.

Being in leadership has its challenges.  And yes, I’m aware that a lack of privacy often times goes with the territory so hopefully I am not whining too much here.  But, this I know; most leaders are their own worst critics – let’s not add to their burden by setting ourselves up as judge, jury and executioner.

Question: How do you feel when people make public judgments about your private choices? What are healthy ways to respond to this? To enter into the conversation, click here.

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6 Comments

  • Reply
    Deborah Johnson
    at

    A guy I knew a long time ago told me it is not my business what other people think just like it is not their business what I think. Opinions are like rear ends everyone has one some are better left covered up, lol. It seems for things like you mentioned taking care of yourself by talking time off is a wonderful thing because only you know your body and what it needs. How can anybody tell anyone else what is good for them when they are not them, sounds like busy bodies if you ask me. The ol saying unless you have walked a mile in someone’s moccasins you have no idea what is best for them.

    In the Stephens ministry we were taught to walk along side others and offer no advice but direct them to God because only he knows what is best for them and we ain’t God. After reading the bible so much I do not think I have ever found anyone who was working for God that did not take time off and even God helped them along by providing shade and nourishment while they rested. Even our Lord and Savior’s public ministry only lasted for three years.

    Woman you do so much!! Sounds like a year or two would be nice to gather your thoughts and take a breather before you crash and burn. Please do not burn out you may never recover and I know for myself I would like you to around for a long time.

    • Reply
      Michael Tucker
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      My wife, Nancy, and I have been in pastoral leadership for more than 40, continiuos, years. We understand the issues you address in this week’s blog. While I understand Paul’s encouragement to “be all things to all people,” there are limits.

      When we travel abroad visiting missionaries or leading seminars, we try to fit into the local Christian culture. Yet, at home in Arizona,we have much more freedom. I ride a motorcycle. Nancy has interests outside the church I serve. We decided a long time ago to never play the roles of “Mr. and Mrs. Pastor.” She is not very visible in the church. (She isn’t musical, and she never stands at the door with me to welcome people.)But she serves where appropriate with her gifts.

      You say, “You can’t please all the people all the time.” I say, “In a church, you can’t please all the people EVER.”

      But I’m not negagative about the church. Taking flak graciously is part of the price for leadership. Don’t whine. Just enjoy all the wonderful opportunties we enjoy as leaders of Christ’s church.

      • Reply
        Michelle Tessendorf
        at

        I love to hear how you and your wife deal with “public arena” leadership. It’s great. And, you are right, Michael, that there are wonderful opportunities we enjoy as leaders in Church. I am ever thankful for those.

    • Reply
      Michelle Tessendorf
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      I literally laughed out loud about your “rear end” comment. I plan to be around for some time to come which is why I take care and look after my “private decisions”. Thanks for the laugh today Deborah.

  • Reply
    Faustina Washburn
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    Just say to them” I am following Jesus’ example to get away to pray and refresh!
    People making rude comments are usually jealous.

    • Reply
      Michelle Tessendorf
      at

      Thanks for the encouragement Faustina. Learning to deal with rude comment is part of leadership, although not one of the easy parts for me.

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