Trust the Process

child caring for a plant in the ground

Trust is another aspect of indirect leadership. For Christians, it begins with personal trust in God, but also includes trust in the natural forces God has placed in the universe. Our senses may tell us not to trust what cannot be seen. But trusting our position or personal power to get things done is even more precarious and ineffective.

When we don’t trust these natural forces, we try to “help” people get things done. Helping people, however, is a double-edge sword; it cuts both ways. On the one hand, people are helped, but they also become dependent. The leader’s “help” does not give their capabilities a chance to develop.

Scientist and philosopher, Karl Popper, argues that a policy of imposed “help” resulting from a lack of trust in people’s ability to help themselves leads to various forms of tyranny.

It is our duty to help those who need our help; but it cannot be our duty to make others happy, since this does not depend on us, and since it would only too often mean intruding on the privacy of those towards whom we have such amiable intentions.

Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies (1966, p. 237)

People often try to force their vision of happiness on others. They use guilt, obligation, or threats. This may work for a moment. But, the shelf life of obligation as a motivating force is short.

Jesus spoke of the forces of growth embedded in nature.

  • He talked about the seed that “fell on good soil, and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty-fold and sixty-fold and a hundredfold” (Mark 4:5).
  • He talked about the farmer who “sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear” (Mark 4:26; See also Mark 4:30-32).
  • He pointed to the lilies of the field as evidence that God will provide for the needs of His people (Luke 12:27).

These references are not simply illustrations. They show Jesus’ confidence in the principles of growth that God has embedded in creation.

Leaders who practice indirect influence work with patience to prepare the soil, water the seed, and protect the crops. Then they wait for the forces embedded in the seed to come forth. In other words, they trust the process.

provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at] to discuss the needs of your organization.

Photo by artisano. Photo available at Pixabay under CC0 license. Image modified for size and space.

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