Tell us what you REALLY think

The above is often used in an ironic sense, when someone has just made his or her (usually negative) feelings abundantly clear.  I often want to demand it seriously of supposed ‘leaders’ who hedge their statements around with so much waffle and so many qualifications, ifs, buts and maybes that you can’t work out what it is they actually think and believe. 

The typical descriptor for this is giving the ‘political’ answer which, sadly, has characterised much of the General Election campaign over recent weeks, months and years.

I don’t think I’m alone in feeling starved of strong leadership specifically in the area of vision-casting.  I do think this is something I need more acutely than many people.  For some reason I’m just wired that way – I want to know where we’re going, and how we plan to get there.  I don’t mind if the plan changes along the way, in response to new information or obstacles, but I need to know there is a plan (and preferably to know some of the details of it).

Some of the people you’re leading won’t need this, and won’t be able to process it at all.  They need to know the next step. When they’ve taken that, then and only then will they be ready to hear the next one.

I discovered this in my former role as road manager for a travelling worship band.  Before each tour, I would prepare a beautiful schedule of the whole trip, itemised and filled in with as much detail as I had.  I would circulate this to the band and team a few days before departure, and would carry a printed copy with me at all times. 

Some of the team members would do this too, but most of them would come to me fifty-thousand times a day to ask ‘When are we leaving?  Where are we going next? What time’s lunch? What time’s the gig tonight?’ etc, etc, etc.

It drove me absolutely doolally, and I didn’t realise until much later than I should have that this was OK, and I just needed to feed different people differently.  Some of them would almost literally have been happy to be told ‘Meet us at Heathrow airport on x date at y time’ and not be told even which country we were going to until it was time to direct them to the correct gate.

It still really amazes me that that really is only a slight exaggeration – some people just don’t need to know the plan further than a step or two in advance! 

Some of us, however, do, and some people don’t need to know and understand the plan so much as to know that one exists, it has been thought through, there are good reasons for it, and there’s a reasonable chance that it will work.

For those of us on your teams, in your churches, and in your nations (if any political leaders of the present and future are listening!!) who need this, please learn to articulate and sell your vision.

If you don’t the danger is we’ll get disheartened and start following whichever sheep in the midst of us comes up with a better-sounding (ie any) plan.

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