The 1st Question Leaders Answer in Decision Making

The 1st Question to answer when challenges in leadership arise: Is this a problem to be solved or a tension to be managed? I learned this from Andy Stanley at last year’s Leadership Summit.

Is this a problem to be solved or a tension to be managed? Opened my eyes to see issues in a new light. I was trying to solve problems, when it would be better to learn to leverage the tension.

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Some issues aren’t meant to be solved. It’s not either/or. It’s both/and. Take breathing, is it better to breathe in or breathe out? It’s both. It’s a tension to manage. You breathe in, you breathe out. You develop greater lung capacity, you develop greater endurance.

A new Collective Bargaining Agreement for the NFL is a problem to be solved. No CBA, no NFL games this fall. Though there is tension on both sides of the issue, ultimately there is a problem to be solved.

In leadership, the 1st question to answer: Is this a problem to be solved or a tension to be managed?

If the answer is a problem to be solved, then work towards a solution. Pray. Listen. Study. Discuss. Try solutions. Solve the problem.

If the answer is a tension to be managed, then look to leverage in ways that will let you breathe in and breathe out in a way that grows your capacity.

In some situations, church and school see each other as a problem to be solved. Such perspective can deteriorate into an us vs. them battle. I enjoy being in a situation where it’s a tension we manage, we leverage for growth. There is no them, there’s only us. We are one. We seek to build each other and build momentum that leads to greater Kingdom growth that God desires to bring.

Want to learn more about managing tension? Check out Andy Stanley’s notes on Polarity Management, or notes on his Leadership Summit presentation. Want to go even deeper? Read the book that got Andy thinking, Managing Polarities in Congregations by Barry Johnson and Roy Oswald. They deal with 8 specific congregational polarities and the concept of Polarity Maps. But that’s for another post.

How about you where do you see a difference between a problem to be solved or a tension to be managed? And how are you doing with that? Let’s continue the conversation and learn from each other.

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1 Comment

Filed under Leadership Lessons

One response to “The 1st Question Leaders Answer in Decision Making

  1. Pingback: 5 Lessons Experience Taught Me in My 1st Year of Blogging | Richard Burkey

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