At Work

How Climbing Higher Brings Leadership Clarity

LinkedIn Email Print

Are you feeling foggy, boggy, and stuck in the daily quagmire of down-in-the-weeds decisions as a leader?

In Uncharted Leadership, Angie Ward explains the key behaviors of adaptive leaders. First, she urges:

Get on the balcony. It can be easy for leaders to lose sight of the big picture because we have gotten caught up in the action on the ground. But adaptive leadership requires a mix of action and reflection, much like the difference between being part of a dance versus watching the patterns on the dance floor from a higher perch. An effective adaptive leader will be able to move back and forth between views.

My Own Low-View Frustration

In mid-January of this year, I had an especially bustling, frazzling week. Multiple meetings carried thick content and heavy conversations. I felt stuck. Very few interactions proved enlightening, easy, or carefree. I had one of those weeks when every conversation and task proved more puzzling. Each day produced more questions, conundrums, and unsettled decisions.

Confusion probably should not have surprised me. Over the years, I’ve sensed my perspective often gets fuzzier and blurrier right before the view sharpens. At the very start of the year, I was moved to pursue Jesus-like wisdom for the year’s challenges and directions. So, I prayed as I pondered:

  • How should our team best collaborate for the year’s key endeavors?
  • What should be our path for vision fulfillment?
  • How will we assemble a truly thoughtful strategy?
  • When will be best to execute next steps?
  • Who do we really need at the table for pivotal, winning conversations?

Extremely early on a Friday morning, I was headed home from a quick two-day conference in Des Moines. I boarded my 6 a.m. flight to depart. It was a thick, cloudy sky. The morning’s scenery and temps matched my own outlook. Foggy. Puzzling. Challenging to see through and discern the way. I mumbled to myself how good it would be to get out of this gray deep-freeze in Des Moines.

Our draped-in-darkness plane was only half full, so I started out sitting in a sweet aisle seat. To my delight, no one sat in my row. Score! Plenty of leg space and elbow room. Like my other start-of-the-year mornings, I had begun opening moments of my day with a fumbling, quick, reflective prayer: “Lord, help me see more clearly.” I asked God to grant me Christ-like wisdom, power, and fresh anointing to do good (Acts 10:38).

Now a few hours later, as we approached 30,000 feet, my head was down. I found my heart and mind flooded again with the fogginess of my week’s meetings, dizzying content from the conference, and further personal puzzlement over pressing questions. What should be those next steps? I was sipping a hot coffee I’d purchased before boarding, but I was still feeling very groggy from my 3 a.m. wake-up. My head was hanging.

Then I looked toward the far seat. Glancing through the window, I was drawn to shift over and look out. “Oh wow! What a wondrous new view.” We were now gliding across a carpet of clouds. A thick line of glowing sun—a quickening ray—was starting to peak just above them. It was stunning to behold.

And right there, my download of clarity commenced. For the next several minutes, my heart and mind were flooded with fresh, clear, crisp ideas to meet my challenging conundrums. I grabbed my journal and pen. What flowed from pen to page was definitive, stunning, and joyously confidence-building. I gained:

  • Core concepts for upcoming teaching content.
  • Clear focus for developmental endeavors with our leaders.
  • A colorful collage of creative training ideas.
  • Faces and names of great people to include.
  • Even probable times and locations for key events.

Wisdom from Above

Perhaps you call it being in the flow or gaining an epiphany. I can say with certainty, the LORD answered my early-morning prayer. My need for fresh wisdom, anointing, and powerful insight was being met with his rich resources. I was so grateful. Those amazing moments calmed my heart, set the stage for the new year, and steadied my pace for multiple meetings, brainstorming conversations, presentations, and think-tank sessions with others in the weeks to come.

In our quest for leadership clarity, I believe this is one sweet outcome of following the Apostle Paul’s injunction: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1-2 ESV). Classic words of wisdom urge us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil” (Prov. 3:5-7 ESV).

Three Perspective Prompters

How in your past have you personally made space to climb higher and get fresh perspective?

What leadership issues have you feeling stuck and slogging too low in perspective right now?

What will you do this week to climb higher in your view and seek the Lord’s wisdom?  

Further readings on At Work

  • At Work
  • Theology 101

“God has created us in his image so that we may carry out a task, fulfill a mission, pursue a…

  • At Work

After learning that Hugh Whelchel (1952 – 2024) had passed away on Good Friday (March 29, 2024), I was deeply…