Leading is hard work; it requires a person to see things differently. A leader needs to effect change and that takes guts, rigor and vulnerability. In the bible there is a moment where a guy named Jesus and his earliest followers are faced with pressures beyond their level of comfort. The stakes are high and they are facing tremendous pressure coming from heightened risks.

One evening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious storm came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly flooded. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The disciples were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

The situation really called for them to be terrified and panicking but Jesus responds with tranquility and stillness. His expectation was for the leaders around him to carry themselves with faith and strength in their own leader. What happens when we, as leaders, can’t respond with self-control and calmness? I was on a metaphorical boat-in-a-storm yesterday. I needed to call someone I respect to help me position myself. I’ve learned its okay to ask for help pailing.

When a lot is at stake for you and those around you, your ability to lead well is challenged. I was in a high pressure situation yesterday. One thing I have learned from my Leading Under Pressure Inventory (LUPI) is that I tend to have a higher attention to myself than others. The anxiety I face when under a storm pushes me to act in a way that is most comfortable and natural for me. That tendency drives me to rely heavily on my own convictions, thoughts, needs and feelings rather than consider the at the way my actions are affecting others around me. I was in a pressureed situation yesterday in which I needed to demonstrate Differentiation in Real Time. Differentiated leaders are able to pay attention to the things that matter most to them and to those around them.

The way I have prepared myself for this type of differentiation requires me to ask the following question, “Name one positive thing that you respect about this person”. For me, it has to be in real time and it has to be fast. This discipline for me puts myself in the posture of paying attention to someone other than myself. When I ask myself and answer this question honestly, it usually leads to a shocking change of pace. A new energy spread through the room. It’s easy to criticize people, but so hard to compliment or encourage them.

My challenge to you: Identify someone in your life who is difficult to compliment, and say something positive and encouraging to him or her this week. Be sincere. Be thoughtful. Be highly intentional. The work of attending to yourself and to others can be difficult because it means that you will need to move yourself in a direction that isn’t necessarily the most comfortable for you.




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