By Brian Dodridge
Visionary leaders are awesome.
They’re even awesome-er if they’ve surrounded themselves with others who can help ensure that their visions get realized – or pushed back if they don’t add up.
Some of you are equipped to work alongside visionary leaders – but sometimes, it can be difficult. Whether the visionary leader is awesome or not-so-awesome, working with them does require a “very particular set of skills” (said best in a Liam Neeson voice).
The person who has this set of skills can 1) work alongside a visionary, 2) bring their vision to fruition, and 3) speak up when the vision has no real fruit.
This person who is doing this is likely a leader themselves, but not a visionary one. Is that you? If so, you must be able to do two things:
- Know when to align with and put action to their vision
- Know how much horsepower to put toward a vision before realizing it’s not best for your church. (We typically avoid ditching visions, because we avoid sunk costs, but I’ve blogged before about the embracing of sunk costs within the church).
Ways to embrace and leverage the vision of the visionary, without it hurting your church, them, or you —
1. Don’t rain on their parade
Don’t be “that guy” who kills every idea – and for sure don’t make it personal. Listen well to the full idea, before weighing in on its viability. After you’ve listened, if you do have push-back, they’ll receive it better if you’ve taken the time to carefully consider their visionary idea.
2. At the right moment, provide a reality-check to the vision
If you’re drowning in debt and the vision not only doesn’t eliminate debt, but furthers your indebtedness, that needs to be pointed out. You need to establish unbiased realities – and when possible, offer solutions how the vision could be managed around current and future realities.
3. Make progress on fulfilling their vision, but do it incrementally (sometimes you’ll be a speed governor)
A gifted visionary may be frustrated when they deliver a vision, get the needed buy-in, and then see little to no progress on it. Assuming it’s a viable vision, begin work – but recognize it may not be at the pace they’d like. If you’ve done step #2 correctly, they’ll know that the vision will take time to be realized. Their vision may have come to them over night or on a prayer retreat, but it takes time to actuate.
4. Embrace their ability for visioneering and sometimes, just align on faith
A lot of the best visions are audacious. They don’t always align with predetermined plans. Some don’t make sense in our natural economy, but they do in God’s economy. While I don’t think you should further visions that aren’t healthy or are even detrimental to your church, there will be times visions don’t add up. When those times happen, they’ll be times to step out in faith. Don’t limit visions to things you can figure out.
5. When you can’t make all of it happen, give them options
Let them prioritize which of their visionary ideas is most important. Sometimes visionary leaders have multiple visions, and your hesitancy is simply a capacity issue. Get their input about which one is most important or time-sensitive. In other cases, maybe you can’t fulfill the entire vision, but you can fulfill part of it. Don’t throw away the whole vision just because one portion isn’t viable. If the other good parts would stand alone, pursue those.
6. Bring focus to any part lacking clarity
A visionary I work with often says, “I can see A, and I can see Z. What I can’t see is what’s in-between.” He’s not focused on B through Y. Therefore, those parts are unclear. They lack focus. That’s where you come in. You can determine the importance of B through Y. Most great visions will lack clarity at some level, and that’s okay. It allows others to speak into the vision, as well as the visionary.
Some visions never come to fruition because they were simply not good, or were more about the visionary than the vision. But I wonder how many visions from God were given to gifted leaders, but never happened because the visionary didn’t have someone capable to come alongside them?
Brian Dodridge serves as executive pastor at Brentwood Baptist Church near Nashville, TN.