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The Modern Day Warrior (Pressure is Pressure)

If several of these ring true, perhaps you are overloaded, or you need to get away for a few days. You may even need to consider wise counsel to help navigate your leadership to a consistent set of responses that look like the following.


Image: Philipp Lublasser

Leaders who respond to pressure:

Leaders who have learned the art of responding to pressure in a positive and productive way will consistently demonstrate many of the following responses. Read the questions and see how you are doing.

Do you know how to leverage pressure in the direction of the mission?

Leaders understand that there is no such thing as life without pressure. Experienced leaders get nervous when there are no difficult challenges. When everyone is happy, you’d better duck because it’s about to hit the fan. Pressure is almost always caused by or related to people. The pressure comes as a result of what people (including yourself) do and don’t do. By discovering the source of the pressure, you have the opportunity to either change its course to move with you, or block it and thereby effectively neutralize it.

Are you able to quickly assess the “risk factor” involved in the pressure?

Leaders cannot avoid risk—it comes with the territory. But some risks weigh far heavier than others. A good leader knows how to devote the majority of his or her time to those weightier risk-oriented decisions rather than allowing minor issues to distract and waste valuable time.

Are you able to make tough decisions in the face of pressure?

Many years ago, John Maxwell had to do some leadership coaching for me on this topic. I tended to want to wait too long to make important decisions. Especially when it came to people, I always believed the best and sometimes avoided a tough decision by changing the topic from the issue of decision to an issue of more development. I still have a huge heart for people, but I now make tough decisions because I know the organization depends on me to do just that. Good leaders are able to make tough decisions.

Do you consistently keep a light heart and cheerful spirit under pressure?

This is what will keep you sane as a leader, especially if you are in a growing church. I’ve been in full-time ministry for nearly 24 years and all but six of those years (while I was with INJOY) the churches I’ve served have been in a building program. One capital stewardship campaign after another! I’ve been blessed to serve alongside wonderful people and we are devoted to keeping each other laughing in the midst of pressure. This is a must. You can’t do this alone. As much as you are responsible to be a cheerful leader, you need to surround yourself by other cheerful leaders as well.

Do you face pressure head-on and grow from it?

This is the best way to handle pressure. Honest, straightforward, and clear-cut. No games. No deals. No passing the buck. A great way to discover your strength as a leader is to pay attention to what you don’t want to do. Who are you not willing to confront? What are you procrastinating that you know you should do? Just do it. Experience says you will learn and grow if you press forward with wisdom and counsel.

Have you learned which pressures to ignore?

This is related to an earlier response that asks if you know how to assess the “risk factor” under pressure. There are some situations that are a big deal to others (their emergency) that you must have the courage to ignore. It may feel urgent but it’s not important. Let it go. If this is difficult for you to discern (often, it’s difficult for pastors because of our love for people), then gather a small group of about three leaders around you with whom you have quick access, and seek their counsel. In time you will develop enough intuition on your own to make these “which to ignore” decisions.

Are you able to experience a personal process of rejuvenation following a time of heavy pressure?

This is a great response to end on. Even the best leaders can become exhausted by a season of major pressure, or normal leadership pressure over a long period of time. I urge you to find your path to rejuvenation and renewal. Find the rhythm you need to balance the demands on your leadership with the needs of you own soul to find rest.  

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Category: Ministry, Summer 2019

About the Author: Dan Reiland is executive pastor of 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He is the author of Amplified Leadership: 5 Practices to Establish Influence, Build People, and Impact Others for a Lifetime (Charisma House, 2012), Shoulder To Shoulder Strengthening Your Church By Supporting Your Pastor (Thomas Nelson, 1997), and From a Father's Heart: Letters of Encouragement to Children and Grandchildren (Thomas Nelson, 1999). Twitter: @DanReiland

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