At Work

Discerning "What’s Not There" Is One of the Most Important Leadership Skills You Can Develop

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One of the most important leadership skills is discerning what’s not there.

My Bible reading plan carried me into Acts and Leviticus at the same time.

Leviticus is the handbook for the priests, with incredible detail on exactly how to perform sacrifices for a long list of situations where a person or community has sinned. The length and specificity underscore that sin is very bad, and restoring right relationship with God must be done carefully and at significant cost. No one gets to “wing it” and decide on his own how to successfully manage his sin problem.

By contrast, the book of Acts has almost no information about specific practices. The message is repeated that Jesus’s death and resurrection is the resolution of the sin problem. The believers are encouraged to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38), gather together to praise God, to pray, and to share (Acts 2:44-47).

There are no details on how to do these things. There is no prescription for type of music, order of service, type of sermon, how to baptize, or specific prayer liturgy. There are no details on limits of sharing.

When Barnabas arrives at Antioch his only guidance was to “remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose” (Acts 11:23). Barnabas didn’t bring them the Jerusalem-authorized discipleship manual and worship service template. The church is growing as a work of the Spirit, not because people are following a proscribed set of procedures.

This is the key idea: because of what Christ has accomplished for us, we are free. Paul explained it to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 3:17:

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

The lack of detailed protocol reinforces the astounding magnitude of the gift.

How can you apply this?

Leaders can understand a great deal about a situation by clarifying what’s NOT there.

What isn’t being said?

What hasn’t been happening?

What’s not true?

Who is not engaged?

Who has not contributed or acted or spoken?

What is unaffected?

Write this down at the top of your notepad as you go into your next meeting: “What’s Not There?

Ask these questions and you’ll develop new insights, new ways to frame problems in order to find solutions, and new ways to help your organization go forward.

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  • This reminds me of a favorite quote of mine by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

    It is encouraging to know that through Christ we can learn to see deeper than the surface of life and have the freedom to express what we see creatively in or work and worship.

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