The toughest leadership assignments I’ve been granted were situations where I went from being part of a ‘winning, successful’ team and then given the opportunity to lead people in a system that was defective, broken, and grindingly poor. Systems have enormous resistance to change. As much as we love reading turnaround stories after the fact, the work involved is difficult and costly. Talented individuals can only effect so much change, so fast in a new system.
The real leadership work in tough assignments is winning the internal battles in your mind and heart.
There is an important scene in the Fellowship of the Ring, where Frodo is anxious about what his quest to destroy Sauron’s ring of power will require:
Frodo: “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.”
Gandalf: “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.”
What is your “ring”? What situation has come to you that perhaps you didn’t ask for, but is now your responsibility?
Whatever it is, take heart that in the sovereignty of God this is a great quest.
Difficult situations act like crucibles – the container that holds all the heat and pressure that transforms what goes into something far more valuable coming out.
Our natural, immediate temptation when put into a crucible situation is to escape. We want to bail out.
If you pull the ore out before enough crucible-transforming time has passed, at best you have material that has to be reworked before it is transformed into desirable metal. Sometimes, you have to start over entirely from raw materials.
I have watched many leaders struggle in a position and jump out, believing the struggle was not producing anything worthwhile. They didn’t learn what they needed to learn. They didn’t develop a needed level of toughness, or a new skill level to match more complex problems. They didn’t have their pride broken enough to be an authentic leader for others.
My observation is that in God’s leadership development economy, if you leave a crucible before your time, then He arranges another one to finish the work that He started in you.
Recognize that crucible situations are good things. Be grateful and patient. Endure. Don’t bail.