When a ministry or organization experiences growth there is simultaneously an exposing and developing of character and competence. The pressure of caring well for more people, the stress of new problems, and the weight of new decisions both exposes and develops. In the same way, when a ministry or organization experiences a challenging season there is simultaneously exposing and developing that occurs. Pressure is paradoxical. As a leader, in times of growth or struggle, you will see some develop and you will simultaneously see lapses of character in others. Such is the nature of pressure. Pressure will either expose or develop. Sometimes it does both.
1. Pressure exposes character.
Many wise leaders have warned that when a leader’s growth in competence outpaces the leader’s growth in character, the leader is set up for a fall. Pressure tends to expose our character. Sometimes the exposure makes it clear that a leader needs to stop leading because the leader is missing an indispensable leadership quality: credibility. Without credible character you cannot be an effective leader. Other times the exposure guides us to repentance and growth in the midst of our leading. Which brings us to point two.
2. Pressure develops character.
Pressure in leadership is sanctifying. Being overwhelmed can humble us before God, drive us to our knees in prayer and surrender, and be a catalyst for our continued maturing. The apostle James famously wrote:
Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4)
3. Pressure exposes competence.
As a leader there are many times I lacked a skill or a competence that I did not know I lacked – either because I pridefully assumed I possessed the skill or because I did not even know such a competence existed. Example: I had no clue about some of the financial disciplines in business until I was going through my first budgeting cycle. The pressure of that season exposed “a competence gap” in me. Which can, if we chose for it to, lead to point four:
4. Pressure develops competence.
If you lift weights for exercise you have learned that you will not grow muscles if you don’t add more weight to your routine. If you lift the same weight over and over again, you can go through the routines and not gain muscle. The same is true in our careers and our roles. If we never experience pressure, we won’t learn new skills. If we are never overwhelmed, we won’t develop leadership muscles. If you want new leadership skills you must experience seasons of pressure and moments of being overwhelmed.
Pressure in leadership is inevitable. We need God’s grace to prepare our character for those seasons and we need His grace to sustain us in them. And by His grace, He will use those seasons for our maturation and our good.