I have often challenged leaders to be find seasons of being overwhelmed because you will only grow if you are overwhelmed and take risks – risks of taking on more responsibility or chasing after a big goal. This was true when you took your first steps as a toddler, when you boarded a bus or subway for the first time as a child, when you took your first hard class in school, and when you led your first meeting. If you are never overwhelmed with a sense of “I am in over my head,” you will not force yourself to learn new skills or develop new capabilities.
But you can’t be too overwhelmed or you will be crushed. The art to our own leadership development is being overwhelmed enough to grow but not so overwhelmed that we can’t breathe. How our muscles grow is instructive for us here. If you want to grow your muscles you must lift heavier weights. Your muscles must be overwhelmed. But if they are too overwhelmed, you can get injured and face setbacks for a long time.
In Jordan Peterson’s highly acclaimed book, 12 Rules for Life, he writes about the difference between order and chaos and he challenges people to have one foot in both. While we long for order, it is chaos that challenges us. He writes:
Order is not enough. You can’t just be stable, and secure, and unchanging, because there are still vital and important new things to be learned. Nonetheless, chaos can be too much. You can’t long tolerate being swamped and overwhelmed beyond your capacity to cope while you are learning what you still need to know. Thus, you need to place one foot in what you have mastered and understood and the other in what you are currently exploring and mastering.
So, according to Peterson, to be able to learn new things you need one foot on stable ground and one foot exploring. Peterson’s encouragement caused me to reflect on why Christians are in such a great position to learn and grow and develop. Here are two reasons Christian leaders, more than other leaders, should be able to take risks and step out of their comfort zones:
1. The ground believers stand on is firm.
Those who don’t stand on solid footing can’t embrace the chaos as much as those who stand on solid ground. Believers have received the good news of Jesus, and now stand on the firm foundation of that news (I Corinthians 15:1-2). The news that Christ came to secure our salvation and give us His peace and forgiveness is news that changes everything about us. It is the firm foundation on which we build our lives. There is no surer a foundation. Everything else we are tempted to build our lives on will fail us, but Christ is forever and He satisfies forever those who come to Him. Our salvation has been purchased. Our standing is secure. Our identity is set. We stand on solid ground…
2. The results of the risks don’t impact our identity.
Those who don’t stand on the solid ground of Christ are likely to find their worth and identity in the result of the risk that they take. Believers don’t have to find their identity in the result; we should not find our identity in the result. So, we don’t have to lead in fear or timidity because the result of our leadership isn’t who we are. God has already secured who we are. Standing on the foundation of the gospel frees me to take risks because my identity is not in the result of the risk. Christ has already secured my identity as His child. I am set. I stand on solid ground.