Recently I’ve been reminded that good, if not great leadership will cause tension, simply because for the most part, they’re never content with status quo. Obviously, tension can be generated from both good and bad circumstances, but when it is caused by a leader that seems to always ask that nagging question, “Does what we’re doing really work?”, it is definitely a good thing.
Regrettably, too many leaders, whether in business or in ministry, fail to consistently, if ever, challenge the perception, or in some cases, the delusion, that “what we’re doing must be working simply because we’ve been doing it this way for so long…” To me this is either incredible ignorance, or absolute arrogance. This not only leads to functioning in maintenance mode, it can, and does lead to certain decay and death of the organization. We need leaders who are courageous enough to evaluate effectiveness and make the adjustments and adaptations necessary to ensure effectiveness.
We may be tempted to think that the absence of tension is a desirable objective- and in some cases this may be true. But certainly not when it comes to organizational leadership. Tension in this respect is indicative of systems being challenged, performance being evaluated, and changes being made that promote optimum productivity. From a church leadership dynamic simply re-examine the life and ministry of Jesus, or of Paul, and you soon realize that they caused considerable tension for those who were especially engaged in self-serving religious practices and who were more interested in holding to traditions than in serving God’s purpose (see Mark 7:9-13).
In my opinion, when leaders endeavor to avoid tension it only exacerbates the problem of ineffectiveness. Too often, we are exhorted to work harder and serve more, when in reality it doesn’t matter how much effort someone puts into rearranging the furniture on the Titanic- the ship is still going to sink! Instead, leaders need to be willing to navigate the tension caused by evaluations born out of the question: “Does what we’re doing really work?”