Leading in Changing Times

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Back in 1964 Bob Dylan sang, "The times they are a changing." How true and the changes haven't let up. One business writer put it this way:

Winds of change are barrelling in from all directions. Competition is tougher than ever and coming from places you least expected. The customer is more sophisticated and demanding. Technological changes are incessant. Government regulations are tougher. And everyone is restructuring, reorganising, reinventing, downsizing, outsourcing – all at an ultra sonic pace.

Don't look for a safe place to wait out the storm, because these winds are unrelenting. If anything, they're getting stronger and coming faster, blowing the shutters off corporate headquarters and small businesses alike… The weather report? More of the same!

The speed of change is increasing and future changes will be bigger and come faster because the rate of change grows exponentially, not incrementally. So get ready for the storm of your life. The hurricane season has just begun.”

That's a good description of business world but it also accurately defines the wider enviornment we all live in. And it was written in 1996!

How leaders respond to and lead during times of change is vital. The first disciples of Jesus were about to experence revolutionary change. Listen to what Jesus said to Peter:

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” [Luke 22:31. NLT]

My good friend, Dale Stephenson, noted recently that Satan's desire was to sift ALL of Jesus' followers but Jesus prayed specifically for Simon's faith, because of the influence he would have on the others. Smite the shepherd and sheep will scatter. No wonder leaders are such a target for extreme testing. Thats why our faith – our trust and dependence on God in all seasons and times, especially during times of great change, is so important.

The current reality is change and more change. We live in times of transition in multiple arenas that affects us all. We are in what Scottish cultural anthropologist Victor Turner a "liminal space" - “a space of transformation between phases of separation and re-incorporation. It represents a period of extreme ambiguity, a marginal and transitional state.” These times are characterised by darkness or fog – an obscuring of vision; an inability to see the road ahead. It's a period of flux - continuous change, passage or movement, a flowing or flow. This can create a lot of insecurity and as Virginia Satir said, “Most people prefer the certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty!”

What should our response be?

I hear God saying to leaders: stay the course, keep at your post, be faithful, be strong and very courageous, do not be afriad, dismayed or discouraged, the Lord is with you, don't give up, stand still and see the salvation of God!

More Reading: Spiritual Leadership Lessons from Farming.