Leading Through Turbulence

Note From Dan: This is a guest post from Kevin Queen! Kevin is the Campus Pastor at our Hamilton Mill Campus. He is a Godly leader, gifted communicator, and in his spare time lifts tractors as a CrossFit devotee. His thoughts on leading through turbulence will be of great value to you! You can follow Kevin on Twitter and Facebook

If you’ve spent time flying you know turbulence is part of the deal. Every flight experiences at least a few moments of instability. The only way to avoid turbulence is to stay on the tarmac.

Organizations are like airplanes, if you are going anywhere, turbulence is to be expected.

Sometimes it seems like everything comes at you at once; storms of sickness and death, rough patches of conflict and drama, a huge gust of a slammed calendar and over commitment.

Kevin Queen, 12Stone Church Hamilton Mill Campus Pastor
Kevin Queen, 12Stone Church Hamilton Mill Campus Pastor

Pilots remain calm because they know turbulence is normal and has never taken out a plane. But as a leader when you face something you’ve never faced before, it can be terrifying. Airlines prepare for turbulence; that’s why they include seat belts and little white bags.

Let me suggest a couple of ways to prepare:

Build History with God.

In 1st Samuel 30, things got unstable for David. While at war the enemy destroyed their camp, plundered their possessions, and stole their wives. That’s a bad day. Even worse, his men set out to kill him. The tipping point of the story is tucked in verse 6, and David strengthened himself in the Lord.

It was in that moment David found what to do. As a shepherd boy, David built a history with God. He found that when you minister to God, He ministers to you. What’s true for David is true for you, the history with God you build today will be the account you draw from when things shake up tomorrow.

Build Trust with Others.

In turbulence, trust is a high value. Trust is built through faithfulness in the small things, over time, when no one is looking. That’s what makes a person trustworthy. The reality is, someone is always looking. In turbulent times when people trust the leadership, they grab seat belts. Without trust, they grab parachutes.

If you’re like me, you’re probably facing some kind of turbulence right now. Let me offer you two things I have found helpful in seasons of instability.

Speak Up.

Have a cockpit conversation with a trusted friend. It’s amazing how talking with someone with a little more experience and wisdom can help sort out the cause of the turbulence.

  • Is it over-commitment?
  • Fallen world?
  • Spiritual warfare?
  • Humanity?
  • Depravity?

This will help you name the storm. It’s hard to navigate what you can’t name. A seasoned leader can also give the gift of “me too.” There’s great encouragement from knowing you’re not alone. Even better than a dialogue with a friend, is talking with the one who knows you the best and loves you the most.

The Psalms are a beautiful example of how through prayer David dignifies the trials in his life. I will often read and pray the Psalms until I soul-stabilize. This is important because my team can survive turbulence, but they can’t survive a leader with a turbulent soul.

Buckle Up.

Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart I have overcome the world.” Jesus promises two things.

First, He promises turbulence. Turbulent-free leadership does not exist. Turbulence will follow you wherever you go.

The second promise is more encouraging. He promises that He overcomes. Which means, ultimately, we won’t fail if we don’t quit. Don’t grab the parachute; grab the seat belt, and use the little white bag if you need it.

We will all go through turbulence, it’s a promise. But it’s only those who buckle up and dignify the trial that grow through turbulence. Then one day you’ll be the one sitting across the table giving the gift of “me too.”

4 thoughts on “Leading Through Turbulence”

  1. Dan and Kevin: I came across this Swedish Proverb the day before I read your article. “Rough waters are truer tests of leadership. In calm water every ship has a good captain.” Interesting coincidence…

  2. When piloting, you cannot fly direct. Turbulence causes you to constantly adjust your flight plan. Thanks too, I like naming the storms that lifestyles present to us. LOVE & Peace,

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