The mounting chaos in the world — heightened by the global pandemic of COVID-19 and the fear of the unknown — leads me to writing to you and those with similar positional titles today.
Please remember that you have been entrusted with a supreme, humbling gift and platform: You have been empowered to help lead and shape lives. This power and capacity to directly impact, affect, and influence others shouldn’t be taken lightly. Rather it must be approached with a God-fearing spirit that offers grace under pressure (James 3:1).
"I want to coach winning character!"
Though in recent years society has witnessed the ugliness of power being abused, maligned, manipulated, and suppressed, I want to remind you of the honor you have to make a difference in the world by impacting a single life. And exponentially more than that, I want to remind you that your God-given positional rank provides you a communal platform by which your duty in darkest times can, in fact, serve as the awakening of your finest hour.
Scripture says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18).
Coach, please remember that leadership isn’t for the passive. When things go south, your team needs you more than ever to be bold. Whether it’s on or off the field of competition, society wants and needs leaders to lead...and lead well. They need you to provide direction, to offer insight, and to encourage hope. And whether in good times or bad, coaches (notably Christian leaders) who effectively lead, do so not in isolation, but in the counsel of others based on truth covered in prayer (Proverbs 11:14; 30:5; Ephesians 1:17).
For the dynamic leader, the buck stops with you. Extreme ownership is a must. If there’s a pitfall in execution, it’s YOUR responsibility. If your team is missing the mark, it’s YOUR responsibility. If team culture is lackluster, it’s YOUR responsibility. For the Christian leader, YOU are the spiritual head. If the task ahead is laborious, it’s YOUR responsibility. If your team is facing the unknown, YOU must take the first step. YOU must lead by example. YOU must be prayed up. YOU must rise to the task. YOU must embrace the moment. And to make a real difference, YOU must take each step with dignity, discernment, and determination. Remember, this responsibility is a gift, for there can be no leadership where there is no team.
Understanding the exponential effect your leadership has to impact those on your team and their circles of influence is not something you take lightly. Knowing that your every act is mimicked and every word copied, like a parent leading your children well, you want to ensure that every action is carefully calculated and every response is lovingly representative of Christlikeness. The waiting world is watching.
That said, as a leader, your responsibility is to lead without excuse. If you do fall (and you will), get back up, clean yourself up and lead again with fresh perspective and transparent integrity. Your team needs you to do so. Your community needs you to do so. Your family needs you to do so. Your destiny demands you do so.
Scripture says, “[We weren’t] given a spirit of fear and timidity, but power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).
One of the best ways a coach/teacher/leader tangibly loves is by exemplifying and embodying character amid chaos. It’s in the crucible of chaos that true character is revealed; the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation. Please know that this doesn’t mean that you have all the answers. Still, you show up to the task at hand, you are present in the moment, and you personify a quiet confidence and courage mixed with a peace that surpasses the gravity of the moment (Philippians 4:6-7).
For those who lead in uncertain times, remember to do so with care. Clearly communicate the end goal with attention and intention. Mold without pressing. Nudge without pushing. Lead without dragging. Love without end.
To bring about true change, you must genuinely exhibit love for each individual rather than manipulating them to fill a role that secures a set outcome. As nothing of value is ever easy, true leadership requires you to take a proactive mentorship mindset. As Coach Tony Dungy eloquently describes, “Mentor leadership is all about shaping, nurturing, empowering, and growing [people]. It’s all about relationships, integrity, and perpetual learning. Success is measured in changed lives, strong character, and eternal values rather than in material gain, temporal achievement, or status. It is primarily concerned with building and adding value to the lives of people in the process.” This approach ultimately makes the people you lead better players, workers, students, family members — and ultimately, better people.
Remember Coach, your responsibility is to leverage the context of the situation rather than control it. Uncertain times are, by definition, uncertain. But for the leader, making difficult decisions in uncharted territory is part of the package. As Jason R. Roberts writes, “The formation of character is forged on the anvil of adversity.” Or properly stated another way by Helen Keller, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet; only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
Scripture says, “To whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48).
Coach, please know that though times are uncertain, one thing is sure: God never fails.
It’s through this paradigm that I hope you find peace. The fact that you’re breathing right now is only because God allows you to experience and enjoy it. You are alive today only because God has granted you the ability to be; so be present in the moment, seek His will for the situation, and help accomplish His good purposes for your life (Ephesians 2:10).
A position of leadership can be a tough and lonely position, but remember no man is an island. Rely on God and those around you. Though tough times will come, that doesn’t excuse your responsibility to lead. Your job is to help your team be better. Even when it’s murky, you must carefully wade into the fray with faith, confidence, and resolve.
In closing, take courage from Psalm 91:1-16. As a leader you can bank on God’s promises:
- Verse(s) 1, 2: With God’s presence, it doesn’t have to be lonely at the top.
- Verse(s) 3, 4: With God’s protection, God keeps you safe as you take steps of faith.
- Verse(s) 5, 6: With God’s peace, you don’t have to feel insecure in uncertainty.
- Verse(s) 7-10: With God’s perspective, you can have an eternal view that keeps you steady.
Coach, though it may not be the most comforting, remember those who thrive in uncertainty only do so by lots of practice. When things do go south, don’t bury your head in the sand like the ostrich. Put the tough issues on the table, and respond to adversity with an unfettered resolve that motivates your team. Seek God’s guidance every step of the way. Don’t be afraid to be transparent and exhibit an authority of authenticity. And remember what Ernest Hemingway scribed, “Courage is grace under pressure.”