When leadership is shaken, when the challenges seem impossible, when the struggles seem overwhelming, leaders have to regain their footing to remain an unshakeable leader. “If you fall to pieces in a crisis there wasn’t much to you in the first place”. Proverbs 24:10 (MSG)
In Tony Robbins new financial book “Unshakeable” he defines unshakeable as a state of mind. He goes on to say: “When you're truly unshakeable, you have unwavering confidence even amidst the storm. It’s not that nothing upsets you. But you don’t stay there. Nothing rattles you for any length of time. You don’t allow fear to take you over. If you’re knocked off balance, you find your centre quickly and regain your inner calm." Robbins points out that state of mind allows you to be "a leader, not a follower. To be the chess player, not the chess piece.”
As a leader, I think I first realized how tough leadership was and what kind of an emotional roller coaster it was, when, less than a year into my ministry, I had the most influential couple in our church come at me. They wrote me a letter telling me how I might become a good pastor one day, but today I was doing everything wrong. They followed that comment with a list of demands they had and partnered that with a threat that if I didn’t change they would withhold their tithe.
At that time, the church was small, maybe 80-100 people and their tithe was at least half of the entire church’s budget. I was definitely shaken! I set up a meeting with them and met them face to face, thinking I could convince them to change their mind. The meeting only went worse and they upped their threat to leaving the church entirely if I didn’t change to their demands.
I was faced with an impossible situation. But, after praying and thinking it through, I knew that if I changed to their demands I would be controlled by them for the rest of my ministry there. I also had to wrestle with the real possibility of cutting our income in half and not taking a pay cheque personally. I determined to make God my source and not this couple. After wrestling this in my own head, I politely told them that I couldn’t change to all of their demands. They left the church and sent another letter to me, making sure I was well aware of where I fell short as a pastor.
After they left. . . . . the church actually grew! In the next 3 months it doubled to over 160 people in weekly attendance and our income, nearly tripled. I think when the other members of the church saw that I was actually leading, they bought in all the way. That was a massive lesson for me as a leader. It helped me to put my full confidence in God and in His call on me: to be a pastor and a leader of a local church.
Develop unwavering confidence
“If you fall to pieces in a crisis there wasn’t much to you in the first place”. Proverbs 24:10 (MSG) Harsh words that may first anger leaders, but ultimately it challenges us to raise the bar on leadership.
As a mentor, I always wrestle with how to motivate leaders when they are going through a crisis. The tension I feel is that I want to help and to rescue, but I also know how important it is for each leader to “strengthen themselves in the Lord” as David did in 1 Samuel 30. Each leader needs to learn how to look to God to be their source and their Saviour in the midst of the storms, and not look to me or to others for their rescue. Your “much” is determined by how much you really trust God and trust yourself as a leader in the crisis. And this is only learned in the process.
I remember the phone call I received one Sunday afternoon that my Mom had just passed away. That threw me into a realm of pain and confusion like I had never faced before. It took me a while to wrestle through that one. I don’t think I could’ve made it through that one if it weren’t for my wife pointing me to Mark 11:22. It says, “Have faith in God.” Period.
Mark 11:22 doesn’t say have faith in yourself, or in your prayers, or in others, or in the answer you are looking for. It says, have faith in God. I had to come to the realization that His ways are higher than my ways. I came to realize that He is God and that I am not and that I may never come to understand everything this side of Heaven, but that’s ok. Because He is God and I just need to put my faith in Him. I don’t think it’s possible for a human being, I don’t care how good of a leader you are, to be completely unshakable. Your only hope is to put your faith in someone who is unshakable. God. That’s my source of hope and strength. I never understood that completely, until I had no choice but to put my faith there.
Learn to Think Past the Confusion
When you are shaken, especially by rejection or failure, there’s often an element of confusion in the mix. The temptation is to hope someone else will straighten out the confusion or we put it off and plan to deal with it later or worse, ultimately choose to do nothing. None of these are the right answer, but it can be difficult to think past the confusion of such a moment and stabilize what’s shaking.
I try hard not to react to my feelings when faced with rejection or failure. One way I do this is by not responding or reacting to the situation for at least 24 hours. This allows me to think past my feelings and to then respond more appropriately. Many times, I have come to realize that the rejection or failure was a result of something I did or could've done better. Once I correct my side, then I can work on bringing clarity to the confusion and dealing with the other side. It’s a painful process, but it has saved me from making a mess messier by reacting on my first emotion and saying or doing something I would later regret.
Embrace the Pain of Change
You must push your capacity level for a crisis beyond what’s always worked and learn how to sacrifice the immediate short term options for the long term advantage. You do this by learning to embrace the pain of change. Anytime you shrink back from a crisis you limit your capacity. When you embrace the crisis and problem solve your way through it, you grow and your capacity grows. This only comes with time and experience.
[bctt tweet="Shrink back from a crisis & you limit your capacity. Learn to embrace the pain of change." username="kellystickel"]
I used to hate experiencing those times as a young leader, but I have found that there are somethings that can only be taught by experience. And that is how to grow your capacity level through experience. You have to be patient (I know I hate that word too) and you have to have more of an agricultural paradigm than a mechanical one. That means I am sowing seeds today in order to reap a harvest down the road rather than just constantly fixing the problem in front of me.
Maintain Personal Disciplines
When your “normal” gets slammed with a heavy does of abnormal your emotions, your perspectives, your will power, your thinking, your faith, all of these things can get shaken. Sometimes the problem in front of you has multiple friends. In the middle of a crisis or a heavy dose of the abnormal, it’s more important than ever to stay strict with your personal disciplines.
I mean your devotion time with God, your personal development time with books and podcasts, your physical health time, and your family and relationship time. In the middle of a crisis your mind is focused on what it is stressed about. That’s normal. And you will be tempted to abandon all of your other disciplines. But you will never have the strength to make it through if you give up the disciplines that feed you.
Check Your Habits
Your thinking will change your habits, but changing your habits over a period of time will change your thinking as well. So, you need to give yourself time to lead with vision, as opposed to leading by reaction, by taking time to do big picture thinking. See where you want to go or need to get to and then determine the habits it will take daily to get there in the future.
Express Your Gratitude
Gratitude is vital to mental health and strength. When you stop being thankful, you are in deep trouble. This is one area that I think we all need to watch in ourselves and self diagnose where we are mentally based on how thankful we are. When that starts to slip we know we need to course correct to get back on track. Gratitude builds mental strength in my opinion and I don’t think it’s possible to be unshakable without it.
Focus on the Top Three Problems
The importance of self discipline cannot be overstated when it comes to having the mental strength to make it through a crisis. As far as being overwhelmed, one discipline I have found that works is the skill of prioritizing the top 3 problems that I need to solve now. By limiting them to 3, I’ve learned to focus and avoid feeling overwhelmed. When I solve one, I add another one and just keep moving forward. I have found that this focus allows me to finish with excellence on each problem because I can give my full attention to it rather than being spread too thin in too many directions.
Be Ok With Not Having All the Answers
As I mentioned earlier, when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, I went through a really difficult season. Her death shook me, but I came to the conclusion that God is God and I am not. In other words, it is ok to not be ok.
I had to come to the place where my trust was so much in him that I had to be ok with not having the answer to my very emotional question of “why”. That was a tough one…and to be honest, it still is a tough one. But, it has taken my relationship with God to a totally different level. It’s helped me not become too overwhelmed when there are negative circumstances around me.
Failure is not Fatal
Thomas Edison is a great example of being facing a crisis and being unshakeable in the midst of a personal devastation. At 67 years old, Edison lost everything. One evening an explosion burned all of his facilities where he ran his experiments to the ground. His response to a lifetime’s work was: “It’s all right. We just got rid of a lot of rubbish. I’ll start over tomorrow”. He personified mental toughness. He didn't view failure as fatal. Edison said after that fire that he only lost his mistakes and could start over. I love that mentality. To him failure was a stepping stone to getting it right. He knew what didn’t work so he could find what did. It doesn’t feel that way in the moment, but we have to look past our feelings and focus on our future. Failure is only fatal if you quit.
[bctt tweet="Failure is only fatal if you quit." username="kellystickel"]
Curiosity is Key
Sometimes it’s the uncomfortable zone that shakes our inner confidence and knocks us off balance. That’s when our ego takes a hit. But successful people keep going by being curious. Curiosity is key. You have to ask questions and be self confident enough to ask others for help. We have a lot more experience when we get older, but that doesn’t mean we know everything or that have nothing else to learn. We can always learn more and we can learn from anyone, if we will only watch and ask.
How do you regain your footing?
- Develop unwavering confidence
- Think past the confusion
- Embrace the pain of change
- Maintain personal disciplines
- Check your habits
- Focus on your top three problems
- Be ok with not having all the answers
- Understand failure is not fatal
- Stay curious
After reading this blog or listening to this podcast, leader’s may be limiting themselves by comparison to some examples I’ve talked about. You may be thinking about what you don’t know, what you don’t have or who you’re not like.
Invite others into your world who can help you face whatever your facing. You don’t have to go through it alone. Don’t listen to the lie. One of the lies we tell ourselves is this: “no one else has ever gone through this” and “I’m the only one”. No matter how much success you think someone is having or has had, they have faced similar trials as you. So ask them for help. What have you got to lose?
Most of all, ask God for help. Lean on him. Jesus said that “when you face storms” He didn’t say “if”. When you face storms the ones who last are the ones who built their lives on the Word. In other words, they know God. As leaders we have to trust God enough to know what He says and to do what He says. That’s where you will find strength and hope to make it through. And whatever you do, don’t quit! Keep going! Why? Because the world needs you.
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