One of the responsibilities of a leader is consistently look forward for the organization. A leader has to be asking the question: What’s next? It is a critical key to continued growth of the organization. Some of this comes naturally for me. In some ways, however, I have to discipline myself to be a forward-thinking leader.
The problem for me comes with the immediate demands on my time. The now cliché statement goes “Sunday’s coming” is always true for every pastor. There are always immediate needs of people in the church. It seems there is something that continually occupies my immediate attention.
Still, if our church and the teams I lead are going to continue to grow and face the challenges of a changing community, I must discipline myself to pick my head up from the daily routines to be forward-thinking.
7 ways I discipline to be a forward-thinking leader:
I try to read something everyday and I read an equal balance of leadership and Christian books. In addition, I scan dozens of blogs and podcasts with a variety of focuses, from technology, to culture and leadership. I absorb the ones of interest and take notes of ideas along the way. Lately, I’ve been enjoying audiobooks.
Pre-COVID, I usually attend several conferences each year. I go to discover new techniques, strategies and ideas, but also to network with people doing what I do. The world of social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) has made it easier to connect with other leaders and I take advantage of the opportunities and ideas presented. Also, traveling does this for me. Everywhere I go I’m intentionally looking for new ideas.
Hang out with a diverse crowd
I love the idealism of youth. The newest ideas always seem to come from the younger generation at the time. Plus, I intentionally try to have friends who don’t think like me. My best friend is opposite of me in so many ways, (race, church setting, political views, etc.). Other than our shared faith, we are very different. But I learn so much from him.
Hang out with risk takers
I often need to be where creative energy isn’t limited by practical reasoning. I’m a realist in many ways, but I don’t want to quit dreaming the impossible either. I certainly don’t want to be around those who have “it will never happen” or “we’ve never done is like that before” as their first response. I always seek out the entrepreneurs in our church. They stretch me.
Invest in others
As I invest in others, I am personally energized. Just this week I met with a young man trying to discern his next steps. As we talked about him, I was encouraged and challenged in areas of my own life.
Let others invest in me
Sometimes I have to release power to others on my team and allow them to lead me. I’m stretched to dream bigger by the people on our team. I also have several people who regularly speak into my life. Throughout my career and life I have surrounded myself with good, creative, seasoned leaders. I find it helpful to allow others to push me in my forward-thinking.
Rest and Exercise
When I’m tired or stretched personally I’m less likely to dream. I have to discipline myself to stop sometimes, but it’s always productive when I do. In the busiest seasons, I am most likely to build into my schedule a day away more frequently.
At the same time, the best mind-stretching time for me is when I am exercising. The key for me is to break the monotony of busyness and allow my mind room to think. Something about exercising gets the blood flowing through my body to my brain. On especially busy days, I try to build in an hour in the gym. I keep exercise clothes in my car.
Granted, all of this takes intentionality, but it is part of my discipline to remain forward-thinking.
How do you keep focused on the forward picture, without being bogged down in daily routines?