Thursday, August 05, 2010

2010 Leadership Summit: Session 4b: The Upside of Tension (Pastor Andy Stanley)

Session 4b: The Upside of Tension (Pastor Andy Stanley)

(note: for other notes from the Leadership Summit, please see my other posts on my blog at or see my posts on twitter at - You will also find some great notes from the Leadership Summit at or follow Tim on twitter at

Founder and Pastor of North Point Church Alpharetta, GA

As a young leader it was tempting to look at leaders and think they were perfect. It was also easy to look at mature organizations and think they had no problems.

Every Organization has problems that shouldn't be solved and tensions that shouldn't be resolved. Great leaders learn how to leverage those dynamics to create growth engines for the organizations.
The opposable thumb is one of the most primary attributes of primates. Because of this, a major league player can use these same digits (fingers in the hand) to apply a contact lens and to be able to throw a baseball 90 miles an hour.
There is pressure and tension that you can leverage to go further as a leader.

How do you resolve time at work and time with your family. You just can't resolve this tension, you can only manage it.
In business life, there are some examples:
Management and Leadership
Systems and Flexibility
Sales and Marketing
Allowing the pastor to be lead by the spirit and to get out on time so volunteers in children's ministry won't quit
Attract new people vs. nurture current people
Numeric growth vs maturity growth

What are the problems that shouldn't be resolved or tensions that shouldn't be resolved in your organization?
If you solve these types of problems or tensions, you create a new problem. By going to the extreeme, you create a new problem. What if you're all theology and no application? Then, you are Presbyterian (joke). What if you allow the pastor to preach as long as the Spirit moves and don't address the length of the service? Then you're Baptist (joke).
If you
Progress depends not on the resolution of these types of tensions but the management of the tensions.
Three questions to begin discussions with your team:
1.Does it keep coming up?
2.Are there mature advocates for both sides?
3.Are the two sides really interdependent?
The role of leadership is to leverage the tension to the benefit of the organization
Seven Suggestions to how to manage these tensions:
1.Identify the tensions
2.Create terminology - give a name to these types of tensions that can't be resolved. E.g. “I guess this is just a tension we're just going to have to manage.” You need to create this third category or else it will become win-lose.
3.Inform your core – once you decide this is a reality, make sure your key players understand this principle that this item fits this third category.
4.Continually give value to both sides
5.Don't weigh in too heavily based on your personal biases - example: environment (how the room looks) vs. systems/technology (and saving money)
6.Don't allow strong personalities to win the day (you need passionate people and you also need mature people to realize the reality that the tension will never get resolved)
7.Don't think in terms of balance. Think in terms of rhythm – don't think about being fair, think about the right time for each side. Example: There is a time when it's more important to sing than to preach, there is a time when it's better to preach than to sing. There's a time when spending money on environment is more important that saving money for the future.

As a leader, one of the most valuable things you can do for your organization is to differentiate between tensions to be managed and problems to be solved.

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