Leadership Insight: It's Messy

Leadership is messy. There are an obsessive amount of books on how to do leadership well, and sometimes they make it seem that if you just do the prescribed formula, then you’ll be fine as a leader. Many of the books are fantastic with great tools and insights that have shaped my leadership. However helpful the books and concepts may be, leadership is still messy.

My insight on the messiness of leadership comes in reflection about the role of our personal lives, the complexity of humans, and unavoidable variables that affect life.

Leadership doesn’t have a beginning. People don’t follow me because I have clocked at 7:30pm to lead and speak at my fellowship meeting. People don’t just listen to me when I’m leading a Bible Study. True leadership would mean that people are influenced and follow me in community. On-Time and Off-Time mean nothing when it comes to true leadership. My life matters. I could deliver fantastic sermons, lead people in vision, and pastor people through difficult moments, and yet if I do not have my personal life in order, I have broken trust rather than built it.

Second, people are complex. There are so many variables that lead people to make decisions and stick to commitments. No two people are alike, so how we think about influencing people requires us to entertain various methods.

Finally, there are so many variables that affect our leadership. Insurance policies usually have an exclusionary clause that takes into account “Acts of God” incidents that protects the company from having to insure against acts so extraordinary that humans may not be creative enough to conceive the possibility.

Leadership often presents us with “Acts of God” moments where all our assumptions are false and the rules no longer apply. For example, someone’s sin comes to the surface and they are no longer able to partner with us in leadership, or a crisis hits our particular ministry or mission field that forces us to change focus. “Acts of God” moments require us to react and lead through the crisis as best as we can, knowing that there is no book on the subject.

Leadership is messy. To think of leadership as going through tasks and following the formula set out by others simplifies and cheapens a role and calling that require us to get into the mess and figure out as best as we can.

By Eddy Ekmekji