Leadership Discretion Advised

Leadership Discretion AdvisedA few years ago, I posted a light-hearted social media comment about my favorite sports team that was headed to the World Series (go Cardinals!) I jokingly inferred that I might pray about getting tickets to one of the games. I thought very little of it (first mistake) and assumed it was humorous (second mistake.) Shortly thereafter I receive a private message from a colleague who is a few years my elder. He wisely advised me to consider the people I lead as regarding my recent post. His comments went something like this: “Recall that there are men under your leadership who are having a difficult time taking adequate care of their families because of financial limitations. Some are working two or three jobs to pay the bills. Also consider that these families sacrifice some of their income to send contributions to our denomination to support our leaders, like you. Considering the extreme cost of attending a World Series game, some of your team members may be offended that you are willing to spend so much money on a ball game when they can’t buy their kids new shoes. I would encourage you to use great discretion. You have influence, you don’t want to waste it.”

Wow! This man was a true friend that cared enough to share valuable wisdom with me. I received it and thanked him. That has been a couple of years ago but I still recall the conversation, often. I realize that some will come to my defense, will think that this guy should mind his own business and that I have the right to spend my money the way that I want. But, as a leader, I disagree. I must be conscientious. I must be aware of others. I must be willing to sacrifice some of my liberties if I am to be an effective leader. I must use discretion. If you feel as though what you do is no one’s business, you need to take a look at Biblical leadership and Christianity in general. We are responsible for and accountable to one another.

Just last night, I was making some observations on Facebook about a very popular football game. I was trying to make some life and leadership analogies by pointing out the failures of a particular player. You guessed it; some people were upset and offended. I now had three choices: defend myself and blast those who were offended, ignore those who were offended, or apologize. I chose the latter and removed my post. Like it or not, my role as a leader is more important than nonsense talk on social media.

As leaders, everything we do is examined under a microscope, as well it should be. The Scriptures tell us in James 3:1 that leaders (teachers) are held to a higher standard. Of course there can be excesses with this idea and some only want to place impossible expectations on those in authority. But the principle remains true: anyone who wants to lead must be willing to use a different filter for decision-making. Don’t misunderstand – there are issues of morality that we must defend regardless of who agrees. However, the nonessential issues that sometimes separate people are just not worth it.

Leaders are entitled to opinions about everything but it is immature and arrogant to share every opinion one has. As the leadership level increases, so the level of filter needs to increase. Think about this: you only get so much input into the lives of others before they lose interest or they tune you out. What kind of information is worthy of your influence?

I can be right. I can be informed. I can even out-argue some people. However, there is a bigger concern. As a leader, how am I influencing my constituents?

My advice to you? Use great discretion. By the way, you are entitled to disagree with my idea, just use discretion when expressing your ideas. I’ll keep working on it from my end.

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5 responses to “Leadership Discretion Advised

  • Rob Baker

    I concur. I’ve recently learned this difficult, but valuable lesson.

  • Ralph Dillard

    Would it have been acceptable if you had very discreetly bought the ticket and attended the game without publishing your intent? Additionally, should a leader drive an older car that has seen its better days in order to “identify” with those that can’t afford a newer one? Some people allow themselves to be “offended” out of jealousy and are always finding fault with others.

    • rickwhitter

      I think the point of my brother was that, if I were able to go to the game, don’t broadcast it everywhere. It’s not reasonable to live according to the standards of everyone else, but insensitivity and flaunting can become a problem. The Apostle Paul addresses this concept in the Epistles. You are so correct about those who are jealous and looking for a reason to find fault. In my opinion, we can go way too far trying to comply with the opinions of our critics. The car consideration is real life. I really don’t want others telling me what I should drive but if I’m driving a new Bentley, I can probably expect some criticism, maybe well-deserved. Leadership really is a tightrope experience, isn’t it? Bless you Pastor, thanks for the dialogue!

  • Patrice Curtiss

    I struggle with this very thing all the time. I want to express my personal opinion on social media regarding important but controversial life issues, yet I know I have to be so careful about what I say. I’ve told my husband, “If I weren’t in church leadership, I could be honest. I don’t want to be a leader anymore. It’s too much responsibility.” [And then I have to repent.] You are so right about this! Every Believer should understand that his or her voice can be a major stumbling block to others. Thank you for being so transparent here.

  • Steve Bayer

    Well said Rick. We all have influence. How we use that influence is so important. The way our words are perceived can often be different than was our intention. It can be a difficult thing for those in leadership to know how our words will be taken by each individual. We pray that God will give us wisdom in our words and actions so that in all things God would be glorified. I grew up in a house with 3 boys. We spoke our minds openly and did not give a lot of thought to offending each other. It has been a challenge for me to learn to choose my words wisely. A mentor once told me to chew my words 10X before speaking them. I now understand what he meant.

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