Keep the Big Picture in View

Leading is a tricky skill.

One of the toughest things I had to accomplish was a transition in my thinking. To move from the position of ‘what I want’ to the position of ‘what does the big picture want’. To move from ‘what makes me look good, what’s a win for me’ to ‘what makes the vision look good, what’s a win for the whole’.

That seems a little crude in writing, so let me try and explain.

When I was first in leadership, looking after the youth group in Sheffield, when I thought about it, planned for it, came up with ideas for it, most of the time they were only ever based on what I wanted and what I thought would be best for the group. There’s nothing wrong with that. I had been put in that position of responsibility to do just that.

But what I have discovered in 25 years of leading is that this way of thinking is not enough. In fact I would go so far as to say it’s wrong.

I can grow an amazing youth programme, it could be the greatest on the planet, but if it doesn’t grow at a sustainable pace, if it outgrows what it is a part of, then maybe all I have done is help grow a deformed looking body. After all, the youth group I ran only existed because it was a part of the bigger ‘whole’.

I hope that makes sense. We can all be passionate for what we do. Can we passionate for what we do within the context of the bigger picture? Are we willing to yield to the overall vision or are we expecting the overall vision to yield to us? That’s the killer question which in my experience lots of people struggle with.

Perhaps it’s the difference between saying ‘my whatever’ and saying ‘our whatever’. It’s the difference between only focusing on your one thing and ignoring everything else and instead focusing your area of responsibility with an eye on the whole. If we do this here, how does it affect over there?

This is a tricky idea to articulate but I hope you catch my heart. It takes a certain amount of willingness and discipline on our behalf to keep the bigger picture in sight. To remember that we exist as a part of the whole, not as a separate entity. A body doesn’t work like that and neither does a church, a business or a family even.

1. My heart for what I do should never be bigger than my heart for the bigger cause I am a part of.

2. If I feel it is unfair that I don’t always get what I want then I have made my ‘thing’ more important than the ‘bigger cause’ it is a part of.

3. I have to remember the bigger picture is not about me. If I get everything I want then I might consider that fair but it’s not really. I’m just being selfish and that’s never good.

This has been and probably will continue be a difficult path for me to navigate. Part of my role now is to help others make this transition. It is possibly one of the harder, yet most invaluable transitions that a leader can make. It increases a leaders understanding, their value, their influence and ultimately their capacity to accomplish greater things.

I have made it my goal to never limit myself to just what is right in front of me and be all-consumed about that just for the sake of that one thing. I have made it my goal to be all-consumed about what I do with a realisation that it is part of something bigger, greater and way more significant. If I hadn’t made the transition, maybe I would still be where I was just grateful that I was still in charge  of ‘my’ youth group and I would have missed out on so much.

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