Leadership

Are you sometimes stricken with "squirrel syndrome?"
Are you sometimes stricken with "squirrel syndrome?" (Flickr )

Perhaps this sounds familiar: You're driving along, minding your own business, when a squirrel darts into the road ahead. There, in the middle of the street, he cuts left, then right. Finally, he freezes and gives you a brief "squirrel in the headlights" look.

Thump, thump.

Poor little guy. Squirrels might be furry and cute, but they don't seem so bright. After all, they have two perfectly good options. They could run back to safety and cross the street at a more opportune time, or they could finish their dash and leave us pondering the age-old question, "Why did the squirrel cross the road?" Instead, they don't make any decision at all—and end up as roadkill.

Unfortunately, many leaders today suffer from some degree of squirrel syndrome. Rather than simply making a call, they get stuck in the paralysis of analysis. But for leaders, even church leaders, passivity should never be an option. "Passive leader" is nothing more than an organizational oxymoron.

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Successful, effective leaders make decisions. They reject passivity and refuse to let their business, vision and team suffer the consequences of indecision. Passivity and indecision are rooted in one common source: fear. That's what leaves the squirrel so freaked out on the road, and it's what derails so many leaders.

In some cases, fear causes leaders to pull back because they don't want to be criticized. If you've been a leader for even a minute, you know criticism comes with the territory. You'll never please everyone all the time, so buckle up. Leaders make decisions despite potential criticism.

Leaders also wrestle with a fear of failure. No one wants to be connected to something that flops—especially if it flops big. But the only people who don't fail are the ones who never attempt anything. The very act of trying opens the possibility for failure. Leaders keep moving forward by making decisions.

The Bible says that double-minded people are unstable in everything they do (see James 1:8). The truth is, team members won't follow passivity and indecision, but they'll go to the mat for courageous, decisive leadership.

Admittedly, there's a big difference between making a decision and making a good decision. Although no one hits a home run every time at bat, leaders can rely on some basic steps that increase the odds of making a wise choice. Here are four of them:

1. Draw a line in the sand by circling a date on the calendar. Deadlines serve as not-so-subtle reminders to pull the trigger by that date. They provide motivation and accountability.

2. Gather as many options as possible. Examining options and walking through worst-case scenarios reduce fears, so train your team to bring you several possible solutions.

3. Run these options through these filters:

  • Principles: See what your guiding values tell you about your situation and determine how each option lines up with biblical principles.
  • Prayer: Commit the decision to prayer. Before chastising the double-minded, James shared a great recipe: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God" (James 1:5a). God wants to help. Invite Him into the conversation.
  • People: After you've sought God's view, ask for advice from those who know more about the situation than you do and those who have been through similar situations.
  • Perspective: Now that you've collected a lot of data, examine your context. That means asking tough questions: Where are we as an organization? Where have we been? Where are we going? How can we minimize risk? What are the financial and relational implications? Taking a hard look at reality often makes the right decision much easier to see.

4) Put it down on paper. After tackling these steps, you should have a much clearer idea of which direction to go. But if you're still fuzzy, write a report to yourself describing the problem, the solutions and the timeline. Writing things down gives you an extra way to examine the situation and find answers.

Regardless of how you get to your decisions, I implore you to actually make them. The most anxious people in the world are those who don't—or won't—make decisions. While passivity paralyzes the leader, being decisive sets you free.

If you make a bad decision, don't fret. Pastor Charles Swindoll has been credited with saying that 10 percent of life is what happens to you and 90 percent is how you respond to it—so make the call and then manage it. In the long run, your team will be more attracted to leadership based on focused values than squirrel-like indecision.  


Chris Brown is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, pastor and speaker carrying the message of stewardship and intentional living nationwide. Available on radio stations across the country, "Chris Brown's True Stewardship" provides biblical solutions and sound advice for questions on life and money. Follow him at stewardship.com, on Twitter (@chrisbrownonair) or on Facebook (chrisbrownonair.)

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