By. Dr. Phillip Brassfield
Have you ever struggled as a leader with direction and consistency? Ever felt like you were disoriented and lacked focus – like your proverbial leadership wheels had come off and your forward movement had stalled? All of us who are charged with the responsibility to lead have felt that! It’s a normal part of the leadership process. But there are some things you can do to get your focus back and regain your forward momentum.
Dwight D. Eisenhower served as the 34th President of the United States of America. Before he was President, he served as a Five Star General during
World War II and as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe. During his illustrious military career, one of his duties was to train generals. It is said that one of his first lessons involved an illustration that proved a powerful leadership point. He would bring a large steel chain into the room, set it on a sturdy table, and ask the generals what would happen if they tried to push the chain. He also suggested that they try to predict what direction the links would go when pushed. When they tried, the links would go in any and every direction. Then he asked them what would happen if they pulled the chain. When they did pull the chain, the links began to line up in order at their points of connection and move in an orderly fashion in the direction they were being pulled. As he trained generals who would command our troops into battle, he wanted them to experience the difference between a push and pull leadership style.
For all of us who serve others in leadership roles there is a lesson here. If you want to achieve organizational chaos, then try to push your team, push your agenda, push your plans toward your goals. Normally, chaos will result and your chain will go in unpredictable directions. Nothing orderly will be achieved and you will expend large amounts of energy to accomplish negligible results, except, of course, high levels of frustration. But if you learn General Eisenhower’s lesson and pull instead of pushing the chain, the links of your team will line up and follow in the direction they are led.
Here are some pulling practices that are sure to get your team, vision, and goals moving again and heading in the right direction:
#1. Lead by example. The old “do as I say, not as I do” style of leadership is a pushing style for sure. It is heavy in command and control structures that almost always fail with people. Instead, get out in front of your team. Never ask them to do something you are not willing to do yourself. Let them see you practicing what you are preaching. Get to work early, be the first to start and the last to leave. Lead by example. People don’t follow a vision; they follow a leader with one, a leader who is principled. Cast your vision as you move forward. Newton’s first law of motion says that “a body in motion tends to stay in motion; a body at rest tends to stay at rest.” Get out front and lead, and by doing so you will begin the pulling process. If you want forward movement, then move forward yourself and keep yourself in motion, moving toward your purpose. Inspire your team by what you do instead of what you say. Inspiration is a pulling action.
#2. Develop strong relationships. The second lesson we learn from the chain is that all the links need to be in relationship, they need to be connected. We have all heard the old cliché that “your chain is only as strong as its weakest link”. This is another way to say that your team is only as strong as its weakest relationship. Relationships are the steel that holds the chain together. And a chain moves together because each link is connected to the link ahead and to the link behind. Division, dissension, backbiting and rumors are death to influential leadership pull. Spend time working on the relationships in your team if you want to achieve your strongest results. Place a high priority on unity, honesty and mutual concern for one another. Make sure people matter and that they know it. Time invested on the relationships in your team will pay off big in pulling power when it’s time to move forward.
#3. Communicate clearly. Communication is another way that links are connected. Willing and strong links can sometimes fail to move in the right direction at the right time if they fail to get the memo. Make sure your communications are clear, consistent and directional. It is better to over communicate then it is to under communicate. Don’t assume your team knows what to do and when to do it. When all the links in a leadership chain know the plan, they can better cooperate by playing their part. Communication can help you achieve full pulling power when the pressure is on.
#4. Share the win. The neat thing about a chain metaphor is that every link plays its part in the pull. When forward movement is achieved, every link can have that sense of satisfaction that they did their job, held strong and diffused the pressure of the weight of the object being pulled throughout the links of the chain. Working as a chain is a great way to share the struggle, the pressure, and the glory of success. Literally, when the pull is successful, each link in the chain wins. Practice celebrating that reality with your team.
#5. Have a party. Circulate a testimonial link that highlights the win and the results that were achieved for the Kingdom. Find creative ways to say, “Look what we did together!” This also strengthens each link and their connection to each other as well.
Push versus Pull styles of leadership have long been discussed in leadership circles, but not enough in the church. Sadly, because of the general lack of leadership training, too often leaders are left to their native instincts as their primary means of leadership techniques. When left to human nature, we almost always default to our own self-interests, and our lowest levels of leadership motivation. Therefore, personal issues like low self-esteem and the four fundamental fears that drive people in general (fears of being out of control, rejection, losing security, and criticism) can shade our leadership style to one that is more push than pull.
Developing a pull leadership style is not something you do accidentally; you must do it intentionally. You have to plan for it, strategize it and hold yourself accountable to it. And when you do, your team will flourish and your organization can reach its greatest potential.