Handing on to you what was handed on to me
What a two days it was! Last Thursday and Friday (Aug 5-6,2021), the Global Leadership Network[i] hosted its annual summit and Dana and I were in virtual attendance, each from computers in our own homes, linked in a Group Chat facilitated by my son, Chuck. It’s impossible to hand on everything I took away from this event, from knowledge, to insight, to inspiration and challenge but I do want to hand on some nuggets. So, in the next blogs, I’ll be sharing some of the leadership challenges highlighted at the summit. Why? Because we’re all facing these challenges right now, so having some common language, some shared stories and some perspectives from others will help us lead through these challenges. So here goes…first challenge, from the first presenter who is also the host of this event, Pastor Craig Groeschel[ii]…growing the capacity for PUC.
PUC? What’s PUC? It’s a new word, coined by Craig since he couldn’t find another word to capture what he thinks all leaders need to grow in right now. So he created PUC, said like “puck” and rhyming with suck and luck and stuck…and, as he noted…keep it clean with regard to what else rhymes with it. We laughed.
Leaders need to grow our capacity for PUC: pain, uncertainty and chaos. I immediately connected PUC to an acronym I learned some years back, born at the Army War College: VUCA. Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.[iii] This is the world in which leaders are immersed, and this past 18 months or so has made that perfectly clear, pretty much across all leadership spheres. We’ve endured pain, uncertainty and levels of chaos that have tested, crushed, exhausted and exhilarated. Craig’s thesis: this is the hand leaders are playing today and it will remain so for a long time. Hence, we need to improve our capacity and skill with PUC.
PAIN Who wants to improve capacity for pain? Our culture works overtime to avoid pain. Yet, “there’s no pain like leadership pain”, according to Craig. He grounded this idea in St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, which is an agonizing description of his leadership pain
…I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without numbers, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me 39 lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a while night and a day adrift at sea…I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.[iv]
Ideas worth pondering within this notion of increasing the capacity for pain:
- If you’re not hurting, you’re not leading. And if you are hurting, it may mean that you are in the habit of choosing what is right, rather than what is easy.
- The difference between where you are and where you could be is often the painful decision you are unwilling to make. For some of you reading this, you know it’s time to move on. Others know you need to have a difficult conversation. Others know you need to move someone out of a position. Are you avoiding these or other decisions?
- Your capacity to lead toward the future is determined by your ability to endure pain today. What risk(s) do you need to take, especially when you have abundant evidence that what has been is not working? What will hurt if you do?
UNCERTAINTY Uncertain times simply highlight the need for leadership. Uncertain times mean we are looking for leaders who know how to see what’s most important, and then know how to act:
- Communicating what’s most important, grounded in Christ, the Church, Tradition and Truth.
- Planning for unforeseen challenges. It’s called contingency planning, and in highly uncertain times, leaders assure others they are thinking about all that could happen, and making plans to respond.
- Planning for unexpected opportunities. Every crisis provides opportunities. Leaders with a developed capacity for uncertainty know to look for opportunities, name them and determine who should act on them.
- Creating margin for opportunities as yet unseen. Leaders assure there is space, money, flexibility and courage enough to pivot, to rise to the occasion, to respond to the opportunity.
CHAOS Increasing the capacity to embrace chaos, you say? For most reading this, the control-freak is literally freaking out. Chaos? We spend inordinate amounts of time making sure no one thinks we are not in control, did not plan, are unprepared. But, Craig reminded us of this truth: you can have control or you can have growth, but you can’t have both. So, wondering why something is stagnant? Not growing? Even receding? Check the levels of control around it. If you don’t see signs of delegation, of failure, of mistakes and of debriefs from which all learn, if you don’t see room for the Holy Spirit to create something unexpected and unplanned, you are sure to see inertia, a stagnant pool, soon to clog and suffocate life within it. Thoughts to ponder:
- The best leaders obsess about empowering leaders, not controlling outcomes.
- Examine what you are controlling that you need to let go of so that others can learn, grow, lead. Is it safe to try new things and fail? Do you foster a spirit of openness to the Holy Spirit, and a willingness to give up the known to see what God can do?
Today’s leaders need to increase our capacity for PUC: Pain, Uncertainty and Chaos. Why? Because these are necessary in order to have the stamina, foresight and creativity to partner with God in the new creation emerging, even now. And that is THE work of Christian leaders. The Summit ended with a call to PUC-Up! Hope you will and that you will accompany fellow leaders as they do the same!
[iii] Volatility: the nature and dynamics of change and the nature and speed of change forces and change catalysts
Uncertainty: the lack of predictability, the prospects for surprise and the sense of awareness and understanding of issues and events
Complexity: the multiplex of forces, confounding issues; no cause-effect chain and the confusion that surrounds Organizations
Ambiguity: the haziness of reality, the potential for misreads, the mixed meanings found in the conditions and cause-effect confusion cause-effect confusion
[iv] 2 Corinthians 11:23-25, 27-28 NLT