I had a revelation yesterday. A leadership revelation. And as most revelations come, it came during an activity that usually has nothing to do with leadership. Ultimate frisbee.

I love ultimate frisbee and I should probably write a post about why it’s one of the greatest sports ever (besides wrestling and ping pong), but that’ll have to wait for another day.

Anyway…back to the revelation. We were at a point in the game where our team had just scored and we were getting ready to kick off. At this point we usually pick who we’re guarding for that point. As it usually does, it took a minute to figure out the best match ups and because we had been playing for more than 5 minutes I was tired and knew if I slowed down I would be done.

So, I just quickly decided who would be guarding who and said “Let’s go!” I simply said, “You guard him, you guard her, you guard him.”

Immediately, someone on my team said something to the effect of, “Wow A.J., you really are a leader.” And since I make it a habit to speak before I think, the words that came out of my mouth next were, “Nah, I’m just impatient.”

And that’s when it hit me. How often do we confuse a good leader with someone who can just make a quick decision?

Now, I know why my teammate said what he did. He knows I’m a pastor and a leader at our church, so I’m pretty sure he views me in that way, but still. Just because I was able to make that decision doesn’t mean it was the best one to make. I literally just wanted to get back to the game as soon as possible.

My decision took in no other factors other than the speed at which that decision needed to be made.

I have no research on this, but I wonder if the reason that we have a leadership crisis on our hands is because we’re so desperate for good leaders that we’ll automatically place someone who is able to make quick decisions in charge.

While I see the importance of a good leader being able to make decisions when they need to be made, I don’t think that should be common practice for a good leader. A good leader, at least in my humble opinion, should probably make more slow decisions as opposed to quick, snap judgements.

My decision during the game wasn’t for the benefit of others. No other factors were taken into account. I didn’t assess the strength of my team in comparison to the strength of theirs. I simply made the decision so we could move on.

How often do we do that? How often do we make decisions with only the short term in mind? How often do we not take into account the long-term ramifications of the seemingly little decisions we make each and every day?

A good leader makes decisions in order for the people they lead to be better off. Not for quick personal gain.

My definition of a leader, by the way, is someone who has influence on someone else. With that definition in place, it means that all of us are leaders. Whether simply in your relationships, your marriage, friendships, on your social media networks or in your place of work.

If you are a leader (and I would encourage you to think of yourself as one) I would encourage and challenge you, no matter how you got your position of leadership, to think of your role not as a way to get what you want or even your specific vision. You have the great opportunity to lead people to a place that is better for everyone.

By the way, we lost that point and the rest of the game. In the same way, if your leadership style is about you getting what you want or about making a quick decision simply because you can or because you’re not interested in the long term outcome you too, will lose.

  1. What a great way to come to realize why most people just want a decision maker, rather than a leader. I am sure you were that guy in school who took the rein of the workgroup and made it happen. I am much the same way and I appreciate this post.

    Keep up the great writing man!

    • Thanks for the reply Chad. It wasn’t till college that I started to accept what people were saying about my leadership abilities…I’m grateful for the mentors I had who helped keep me in check with it.

  2. I read this yesterday and I’m still processing it today, AJ!

    I think churches especially tend to struggle with this, as the leaders are overworked and tired. I’ve noticed myself needing to make quick decisions lately in moments when it was necessary, but my focus shifted to the deeper purpose of the decision, more than just the need to move on or get it done. Maybe that’s part of the key to handling a decision: if it absolutely has to be made quickly, make sure you are still evaluating and defining the purpose beneath the decision and considering the long-term effects before pushing forward.

    I’ll be thinking on this for a while, as it has challenged me to continue to examine my motives in my decision-making.

    • Thanks so much for reading and for the comment Amanda. If anything, your focus shifting to the deeper purposes of your decisions is a huge step in the right direction. I do indeed think that is a key to handling a decision.

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