Leadership: Stewardship, Influence, and Accountability
Leading through uncertainty. What is uncertainty? It’s the state of being uncertain, especially as it relates to “potential personal danger.” Times of uncertainty are often associated with times of unknown danger causing normal people to feel nervous and anxious.
For example, during a global economic downturn, such as the one caused by COVID 19, billions of people all over the world are dealing with "financial uncertainties," and most, if not all, will look to leadership for answers.
“Leaders pay attention to what you are saying and doing during times of uncertainty because people are undoubtedly watching you!”
Uncertainty refers to unknown situations and circumstances involving a lack of information, especially as it applies to our immediate future.
Uncertainty is usually associated with “unknown dangers that we fear may be lurking out there in the dark.” Uncertainty also taps into our inescapable habit of “attempting to predict the future and control all future events.”
Uncertainty, without good leadership, needlessly creates more uncertainty, which leads to more uncertainty and, well, more uncertainty.
“Uncertainty is WHY the world needs good leaders…its why our family and our employees and our people need us to be a good leader”
Positional Leadership: When There is No Direction The Next Best Thing is CLARITY
Basically, during times of uncertainty, our brains hopelessly attempt to “fill in the blanks,” especially as it pertains to potential danger in our immediate future, so we look to our leaders for direction. But what happens when there is no direction? We should offer the next best thing, which is CLARITY.
We all have someone we are leading, especially if you are a parent. But ‘positional leadership’ is different. Positional leaders have a higher responsibility. Positional leaders have an obligation and a duty to serve those they lead.
“Uncertainty is a normal part of life, and it’s a normal part of leadership. What we do during uncertain times will make all the difference.”
During uncertainty, people naturally look toward leadership for direction and comfort. But what if no one in leadership has ever been “here” before? What if everything is brand new, like a global COVID pandemic?
What if you find yourself in a positional leadership role and face a great deal of uncertainty, and you have no prior experience to help you navigate? Welcome to leadership!
Understand that people will immediately look toward leaders during times of uncertainty, so lead with the only thing you got! CLARITY! The only thing we have during uncertainty is our faith in God. So, when leaders are uncertain and they don’t know exactly what to do, provide CLARITY.
What is “Clarity?”
“Clarity” is simple. For the sake of this paper, Clarity is ‘honesty + integrity + the courage to tell the truth!’ During uncertainty, the best thing a leader can do is be honest and exercise integrity which is the courage to tell the truth. Being courageous (telling the truth) during uncertainty brings forth peace and comfort because it creates CLARITY.
LEADERSHIP DURING UNCERTAINTY LOOKS LIKE THIS….
“I don’t know what to do, I’ve never been here before. But together, if we stick together back-to-back and place our faith in God alone, we will persevere and ultimately get through this. What God is allowing to happen right now is for His glory and our eternal salvation.”
Therefore, it is important to know that a good leader, during times of uncertainty, will provide CLARITY.
Clarity is ‘honesty” and “integrity” combined. In times of trouble, what did Jesus provide? He gave us clarity. Clarity creates “direction” when there is none. Clarity tells us to place our faith in God when we don’t know what to do.
“During times of uncertainty, people look for answers, but mostly they look for hope and inspiration from their leaders.”
Leading during normal circumstances is hard enough, but during uncertain times leaders need to help people see the situation from God’s perspective (an eternal perspective). It’s important for leaders to be brutally honest but, more importantly, present hope.
During times of uncertainty, good leaders bring forth clarity by pointing us back to the essentials, which are our most important principles (such as faith and patience, and trust in the Lord).
What did Jesus do in times of uncertainty? He clarified. He said, “This is only temporary and this world is not your home and your focus should be on eternity. Keep your eyes focused on Our Father in Heaven!”
The Leadership Example of Nebuchadnezzar
King Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful man on earth during his time seemed to have gone too far down the wrong path to ever be turned back. King Nebuchadnezzar was a very dark and evil man. But God is capable of turning anyone’s heart, and one of the most shocking examples is King Nebuchadnezzar.
After being crushed and humiliated, in a decree to made to all the nations he ruled at the time, Nebuchadnezzar humbly proclaimed:
“It is pleasing to me to recount the signs and wonders that the Most High God worked for me. How great are his signs and wonders, how strong is his kingdom, an everlasting kingdom, and his sovereignty is from generation to generation” (Dan 4:2–3).
Before Nebuchadnezzar experienced redemption, he tasted deep humiliation and endured great trials (Dan 4:28–33). He could have avoided all the trouble had he listened to Daniel. In the end, God did not merely humble king Nebuchadnezzar; instead, God humbled him, making him a righteous man to be used for His good purposes and an example for all leaders to follow.
What To Do When We are Unprepared and Don’t Know What Comes Next
When we don’t have all the answers, and we don’t know what to do, we only need to be humble and be honest and be straightforward. Because the truth is we don’t know what to do, not really. When leaders are honest during uncertain times, they are often “making it up as they go.” But being honest, they are integral, which builds trust. More importantly, it’s CLARITY.
“There is no point in lying or misleading those looking to us for leadership during uncertain times. If you lie or mislead, they will stop following you. Honesty is CLARITY. It’s also truthful and it’s also a direction. When we don’t know what to do, be honest and turn to God, and wait (trust Him).”
Good Leadership is Always Good Stewardship
As we learned from king Nebuchadnezzar, any leadership authority we have is on loan to us from God, and it is very temporary. Meaning, we are only stewards of leadership. And, we are supposed to be good stewards of leadership. Unfortunately, if we are not good stewards, we can lose our leadership roles too.
As good leaders, the people we lead are not “our people,” but they are our responsibility, and we are accountable to them. Not only that, we are accountable to God as we lead them well. During uncertain times, good leaders are good stewards of the authority that is placed upon them as leaders. Good leaders, during uncertain times, point people to God “as their only source.”
All leadership is “stewardship,” and it’s temporary. Every earthly leader is temporary. Every earthly leader either retires, quits, flames out, dies, or they are taken out of leadership by their own poor decisions, and another leader always takes their place.
Leadership is Influence
All leaders within a structured organization have been granted “influence” in some form or fashion, which makes them a leader. The difference between leadership roles and all other roles is “influence.” When people are given leadership roles, they are expected to use their influence to lead others in a particular direction.
“Every leaders’ influence will determine their ultimate success as leaders. Meaning, a leader's ability to influence others will determine his/her “success” as a leader. If a leader fails to influence others well, they will lose their role; it’s just a matter of time.”
Like leadership and stewardship, “influence” is temporary. A leader can lose their influence but retain their leadership role. However, eventually, all leaders who have lost their influence to lead will retire or be taken out of their positional leadership role due to ineffectiveness.
Leaders are temporary because “people” are temporary. People are leaders, and leaders are people. People change, people grow, and people grow old and people grow tired and ultimately people fail to influence. Influence, like leadership, is temporary.
So, if you are a leader, realize that your job is to serve those you lead and to serve them well. When you are no longer influential, it’s time to relinquish leadership and turn it over to another steward who will temporarily lead.
Influence is Trust, and Trust is Earned, and Trust is Selfless
Effective leaders lead others by using their influence in a selfless and self-sacrificial way that advances everyone, often at the expense of the leader (Jesus is the ultimate example of influential leadership through self-sacrifice). Selfless leaders use their influence in a self-sacrificial way that generates a strong bond of trust between the leader and those he/she leads.
“Leaders… there is an expiration date on our leadership, so make it count. There is an expiration date on our influence, so use the time wisely and make your time count.”
Leaders are Accountable To God AND Those They Lead
Most of us are accountable to somebody for the way we steward or manage our time, energy, or resources. But the accountability required of every leader is far beyond “normal.”. The truth is, every man, woman, and child (people) is made in the image of God, and those who lead “people” are accountable to those people AND to God!
The people we lead we are accountable to. Jesus taught this, and Jesus model this. So did Nebuchadnezzar’s life. Nebuchadnezzar ultimately learned the hard way that leaders will be held accountable, either in this life or the next.
Much of this article is based on a video series produced by Andy Stanley and published on Youtube. Part 2 is coming soon.
Leading Through, Part 1: Leading Through Uncertain Times by Andy Stanley
See Leading Through Uncertainty and Disruption Part 2