It happens to all leaders. It happens to leaders on your team. They (or you) have lost their way. They (or you) have become distracted by issues that are not central to the role and responsibility of being a leader. How do you know? What’s the effect? There might be conflict on the team. Relationships may even be fractured. Key decisions may have been fumbled. Wonderful opportunities may have been missed. People are questioning the direction and future of the organization. They have lost their hope. How do you recover?
Once again, this happens to all leaders. Our vision for leading gets muddied and we lose sight of what is important. Leadership impact plummets. This is not a modern leadership problem. It is not a phenomenon that arose with the industrial revolution, the onset of modern management, or with the global economy. In fact, a leader of leaders from about 60 AD addressed this very problem to one of his leaders serving in the Mediterranean port city of Ephesus. I’m referring to the Apostle Paul who was coaching Timothy as a leader in the first century church.
We know from a letter Paul wrote to Timothy, that Timothy may have lost his way in leading the church. The opening segment of what is called I Timothy in the Bible suggests he might have lost focus and Paul’s guidance helps Timothy get back on track. The words are wise and we should heed them, too.
Have you lost your way? Has one of your leaders gotten off track? Let’s look at 5 steps Paul took to help Timothy restore his leadership.
First, Paul called out to Timothy what it was that had become a distraction (vv 3-4). Paul names “strange doctrines” and “myths and endless genealogies.” Paul likely had specific issues in mind that he had become aware of from correspondence that we no longer possess. However, these are large-bucket labels for anything that pulls a leader’s attention off what really matters.
Paul didn’t dwell too much on the details and instead told Timothy where to focus his attention.
Focus on this
Paul then told Timothy to focus on pushing forward God’s agenda (i.e. not man’s, the distractions noted above), and to focus on the goal of “love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (vv 4-5). From the entire body of Paul’s teaching, we learn that love is central for all followers of Jesus (including leaders in the church, business, government, and the home), and we know that that love comes only through Christ.
Paul reminded Timothy to focus on what was ultimately important.
Here is why
To help Timothy solidify that truth in his mind, Paul presented an argument for why (vv 8-11). (In this case, Paul’s argument is tied to specific issues that Timothy had been dealing with. They are important and worthy, but I want to stay focused for now on a general leadership principle.) When helping a leader who has lost their way to get back on track, you need to not only call out what has distracted them, and refocus their attention on what is important, but you want to support that with a reminder of why that is important.
Paul supported the logic with a sound argument.
Here is an example
What’s better than a good argument? An argument with a real-life example. What is the best real-life example? The personal testimony of a leader who has walked the same path and struggled with the same rocks and ruts in that path. In this case, Paul offered himself as an example (vv 12-16). He described his past as a leader, the struggles he had had, and how what was ultimately important (love in this case) impacted him as a leader.
Paul gave Timothy hope through his own example.
Go Do It!
The final step for getting a wayward leader back on track is to encourage them to go do it. Go lead! Paul told Timothy to “fight the good fight” and to remain faithful and keep a good conscience (vv 18-19). In a sense, he re-commissioned Timothy to be a strong leader and to stay on track.
Paul encouraged his leader.
Have you lost your way? Figure out what has distracted you. Ignore it. Figure out what your focus should be. Pursue it. Refresh the arguments you once held in your own mind in support of this focus. Find examples from real life (we call them “mentors” today). Ask other leaders for encouragement. They will be excited to help you.
Has one of your leaders lost their way? Be their Paul. Take them through this process and watch your leader’s energy rise and their impact expand.
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.