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Tips on Spontaneous Leadership

An upset parent corners you in the fellowship hall. The Senior Pastor pins you down in a staff meeting and demands an immediate answer. A volunteer pulls you aside at an event and throws you a curveball. A church elder sends you an email that she says demands your immediate attention. These are what I like to call spontaneous leadership moments. And these are the moments very few leadership books, classes and workshops prepare you for. But I’ve learned a good chunk of leadership happens in spontaneous settings; moments you don’t know are coming. But here’s the thing….you do know spontaneous leadership moments are coming, because they come all the time! You may not know when one will arrive, or what the specific issue will be, but you know one is around the corner because, well because one is almost always around the corner.

Here are some ideas that may help you in your next spontaneous leadership moment.

Be Principled. I think it’s important to have a firm handle on a handful of leadership principles that guide your day-to-day leadership style and decision-making. You might even call these principles your leadership pillars. Once these pillars are in place, they begin to inform virtually every decision you make and how you respond as a leader in any situation…even the spontaneous moments. Need an example? Here are a few of my personal leadership principles:  Ethical. Enthusiasm. Efficiency. Excellence. Effectiveness. Jesus-y (that last one is sort of a catch-all that reminds me that leading like Jesus would lead is my ultimate goal).

Be Purposeful. I know it’s not cool to have a purpose-statement or well-defined ministry strategy these days. I know organic leadership and student-driven youth ministry is in vogue. I know giving everybody an equal voice and place at the table is popular thinking. But without a ministry strategy….a ministry purpose…something that dictates “why you do what you do”, you and the ministry you lead will be constantly tossed to and fro by the whims, desires and opinions of others. Scenarios will dictate the direction of your youth ministry instead of your youth ministry directing scenarios.

Be Patient…or Be Pragmatic. Spontaneous leadership moments usually don’t allow for both patience and pragmatism; one or the other is almost always called for, and it’s not always easy to figure out which you should pull out of your leadership quiver in the moment. Patience calmly says, “Let’s slow down a little bit, get more input, give everybody some space and see what develops.” While pragmatism quickly says, “Let’s make the most logical decision right now and get on with things!” Some spontaneous leadership moments will allow you to suggest patience but many will require you to be highly pragmatic because the scenario simply doesn’t allow a slowed down approach.

Side Note: Another reason being principled and purposeful is so vital is because many spontaneous leadership moments require a pragmatic approach, and you will serve yourself and others well by being principled and purposeful in your pragmatic response.

Wouldn’t it be nice if youth ministry were predictable?! Almost anybody with some common sense and a couple of John Maxwell books on his/her shelf can lead well if they have time to plan and strategize. But despite our best efforts, a majority of youth ministry happens on the fly and creates spontaneous leadership moments. You can be ready when the next one arrives…and it’s about to.

– Kurt / @kurtjohnston

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Tips on Spontaneous Leadership

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