4/14/20 — 4 Types of Leadership for Difficult Times

I want to suggest 4 different types of leadership that we need to lean into at different times through difficult seasons. We can look no further than the life and ministry of Jesus for examples of each type of leadership: 

  • Creative Leadership
  • Adaptive Leadership
  • Centered Leadership
  • Forward Leadership

Creative Leadership:

Jesus was the most creative leader of all time. He was the greatest storyteller. In fact, most of his teachings were stories or parables. Jesus never seemed to lead through the lens of conventional wisdom. Whether he was performing miracles, giving I am statements, or teaching in parables, I would argue that Jesus was always creative. 

How you lead creatively through difficult seasons could be your defining moment?

Adaptive Leadership:

I would submit that all good leaders know when to call an audible, even if that means casualties. The last thing we want to do is to swim upstream against the current of this cultural moment. You don’t want to be the guy that stands out and gets swept away. There will be times to stand up with your chest out, but now is not the time. Now is the time to adapt. Now is the time to lean into the current of what is happening. The opposite is also true. Now is not the time to react, or have reactive leadership.

Ronald Heifetz defines adaptive leadership as the act of mobilizing a group of individuals to handle tough challenges and emerging triumphant in the end. That’s what we are about during difficult seasons — zero casualty leadership (as best we can be).

This marked the leadership of Jesus throughout his earthly ministry. In how he led the disciples through difficult seasons of ministry, I would argue that Jesus was the greatest of adaptive leaders. Even after his death, resurrection, and ascension, there were 11 out of 12 (then 12 again) still standing (and then eventually the Apostle Paul) to continue his mission of redemption and reconciliation.

Centered Leadership:

Good leadership through difficult times is also centered leadership. The best leaders don’t stick their heads in the sand when things get tough. This could be financial difficulties, family difficulties, workplace difficulties, or even church difficulties. They also don’t try to go too fast during difficult times either. Centered leadership is all about weathering the storm of a difficult circumstance. 

Centered leaders serve as anchors through difficult storms. How you lead during difficult times will either be something people will grab a hold of and remain steadfast alongside of you or wave at you as they float on by. That doesn’t mean, however, there won’t be scars or even wounds through difficult seasons. 

In one of the darkest seasons of Jesus’ life and ministry, he showed a steady centeredness in his leadership. On the night he was betrayed (by one of his own disciples), he prayed and sought the Father while everyone else slept. In fact, all throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus stepped out of the spotlight to re-center himself with the Father. Centered leaders will do the same. You can only go so far in your own strength before you begin to fail. We need centered leaders more than ever during difficult seasons.

Forward Leadership:

We need leaders during this time who are not reactionary to what’s in front of them, but they are leading with their head up and feet forward. Forward leadership gives a plan to believe in during difficult times. Forward leadership gives people hope when times are hard. It rallies the troops to work together in order to weather the storm. 

Jesus was the ultimate forward leader. His methods rallied the disciples. His mission changed the world. And His message gives the greatest amount of hope this world has to offer. Forward leaders are leaders who are still standing when the storm has passed.

Colossians 3:15, “Let the peace of Christ RULE in your hearts.”