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My interview on the subject of leadership...


I was interviewed recently by a Southeastern University student on the subject of leadership. I wanted to share it for those who might have interest.  

Interview with Deanna Shrodes on Leadership

1.    How would you define and explain your leadership style?

I’m a confident leader yet I thrive on finding the potential in others and helping them flourish.  I am not threatened by others with great talent or potential, rather I rejoice in releasing them to their fullest.  My leadership style on a day to day basis could be described as organized with an attention to detail  but I don’t have a problem delegating or releasing and I don’t like to micromanage.   While I don’t have a passion for babysitting I do enjoy leading.

2.    What plans do you have that could cause staff or church members to become uneasy but feel as though the intended outcome justify the means? – Regarding maintaining ethics and promoting change.

I love prayerfully pushing the envelope and doing things others haven’t done before.  In the past I led a bar hopping outreach with our choir in Maryland .  We went to different bars and did some of our Christmas arrangements and gave out free Bibles.  People loved it and it made the front page of the local paper and subsequently the Billy Graham  Association heard about it and called to interview me for “Decision Today.”   On another occasion we hosted a “Texas Hold Em” outreach for the young adults of the community.  There was no gambling involved.  They just played for free prizes but it brought some new young adults  into the church.  I don’t believe in doing things just for shock value but for a genuine purpose – reaching people in bars who might not step into church, or young people who are also not interested in church – yet – it was worth it.  If there is a not a strategic opportunity for response in these type of outreaches I would pretty much consider them worthless.  To me, ascertaining the motivation for such an event would be the first order of business in maintaining ethics. 

3.    How will you determine what decisions to proceed with that may benefit some at the expense of others?

Prayer!!!  That is not a cliché.  I am a person of prayer and value it above most anything else in my personal life or in the church.   Nothing great happens without prayer and no significant decision should ever be made without it unless you would like to create a recipe for disaster.

4.    In regards to your plan for change how do you intend to influence follower commitment and optimism? 

First, it helps in leading our current church for 9 years and our previous for 9 years as well before that people know by now that we are not bringing anything before them without having saturated it in prayer.  There is something to be said for the longevity of a leader.  When I bring it before them I say, “I’d like to share something with you and I have prayed about this…”  Of course when I say that I really MEAN IT, it’s not just some “God card” that I throw around.  I think that’s really important that as leaders we don’t ever throw God or prayer around as a tool to bully people or get our way all the time.  When we say we’ve prayed and God has spoken to us to lead, we better be genuine about that or I would really question our integrity as leaders.  After praying it through I would let them know of my personal investment in the project.  As far as optimism, I get excited about it and talk it up every chance I get.  If a leader isn’t excited, why should anyone else be?  I talk it up on various social media as well as in person just sitting and having coffee with people, teaching  from the pulpit, etc.

5.    How do you deal with conflict? Employees questioning your authority? Parents? Stakeholders?

This is a loaded question and one that doesn’t have a neat and tidy answer for all situations.  I believe a lot is contingent upon the situation.  I believe that in the case of employees it’s important to have a very detailed job description as well as policies and procedures manual that is a good springboard with which to work from.  It’s important to handle things in a firm, fair and consistent manner, and also document things well.  Employees should know coming in exactly what’s expected.  Now I realize some people are going to have an issue anyway and in those cases I believe dealing with it sooner rather than later is always the answer (have learned this the hard way!) and document things very well.   

In the case of parents, stakeholders, church members, etc. I believe communication early, often and clearly is important.  It’s not just important to communicate something in a timely fashion,  it has to be clear to be effective.  As a leader you can get up and say a whole bunch of nothing.  You’ve communicated but not clearly and therein lies the difference.  Statistics tell us most people don’t really get something until they hear it seven times.  I not only believe in telling people something, but repeating it , and in different ways if they haven’t gotten the message accurately the first, second or third time, etc.  Now in the cases where they openly rebel against my authority I believe in handling it as peacefully as possible and by the principles of Matthew 18.  That doesn’t mean you don’t have to be firm sometimes but I believe most anything can be said in love.  It does take TIME to do so, and more thoughtfulness than saying the first thing that comes to mind.  I have learned to be slower to speak when addressing a conflict.  That doesn’t mean I don’t deal with it right away, but when I do I choose my words more carefully. 

I have also learned to involve other leaders according to what is laid out in Matthew 18.  After dealing with someone alone the first time if they continue to cause an issue I take a leader or two with me, or in some cases the leaders will address that person for me.  The Bible says to “mark those who cause division among you.”  I have had to mark a few people and allow the leadership to do what leaders should be set free to do – lead.  

6.    If some kind of confusing event happened (like a shooting) how would you interpret the event (for others, press release) to build consensus around strategies for dealing with threats and opportunities?

I believe it’s important especially in these days and times to have a policy set forth ahead of time as to how these issues would be dealt with should they occur.  If an event happened I would first of all try to remain calm in my announcement.  That doesn’t mean that I would be emotionless.  I believe that there are times you weep with those who weep.  A leader isn’t called to be a stone.  I have done people’s eulogies with tears running down my face – people I deeply loved in the church.  I didn’t “lose it” and become incapacitated to lead or anything, but I showed appropriate emotion at the time.  I believe the announcement of a tragedy would call for appropriate emotion, after having assured everyone’s safety.  At that point the goal would be to select words to share that would build hope in others that somehow what the enemy intended for evil would be turned around for good by God.  Incidentally, we have had to do this for our church in years past as there was a tragedy associated with it, although I would rather not share all the details here and re-hash them.  We have had to actually live this out and after two years of a grief period the church went through we did see the hand of God and how He turned around an evil situation for good.

7.    How would you inform followers of the cost, risk and benefits of a risky venture and get followers to make a conscious decision (educated decision) about whether the effort is worthwhile?

First I would calculate for myself if it was truly worthwhile.  I would not try to convince someone else to give or invest of themselves in something I am not fully committed to in my heart.  I can’t speak with any sense of passion about something I’m not really personally invested in.  After making the decision for myself I would simply speak from my own experience of what I have decided to invest in whatever venture is on the table.  I would do that through a series of creative communications in whatever areas God led me to use – social media, banquets, personal one on one meetings, messages in services, letters, etc.

8.    How do you determine what types of changes are necessary and morally right for the Church?

The reading of God’s Word, and Prayer.  Again that is not a cliché, or a cop out -- it’s how I live my life.

9.    How do you adjust your approach to various groups when dealing with issues or discipline?

I do not believe people are all the same nor should they be treated the same.    While Jesus was “no respecter of persons” I don’t believe that means we treat everyone the same across the board.  Jesus appeared to have a variety of levels of compassion for different people, in fact look at how the scripture indicates that he specifically recognized children and even said that we must become “like them” to enter into the Kingdom of heaven!   I would not necessarily discipline a child who has physical or learning disabilities the same as a fully functioning child, if they did not have the ability to understand the directions in the same way.   There are those who do not have the same mental or physical capacities and must be given greater grace.  I believe the Lord shows us with different people what approach to use if we seek Him.  This is not just for children, but for all people.  While the Word of God does not change, our methods of applying it sometimes do, if we are wise.  

As a for instance I am currently dealing with a situation like this and just this past week my husband and I were discussing a possible resolution to the situation.  There is a person, an adult, who consistently interrupts me at the altar.  It is quite honestly very irritating even when they mean well .  If they had their full mental capacity I would deal with them quite differently.  But they don’t understand, no matter how many times or different ways I gently tell them.  Because they are severely learning disabled.  I have others who can help or gently re-direct but because of this person’s weakness, I do not become harsh with them.  However if someone who does not have those same disabilities kept interrupting me time after time I would be much firmer in the way I dealt with it.

10. What are you glad that you did in your past and were defining moments for you as a leader?

I have always had friends in leadership and I’m glad I made that decision.  I know people say that most pastors don’t have friends and that leadership is a lonely place.  I believe those people choose that.  I’m not willing to live my life without friends.  Even with being advised 25 years ago in Bible College NOT to do this, and going to many district seminars and workshops over these many years where we were also advised NOT to do this, I always decided not to take this advice.  

I looked to scripture instead and saw that Jesus had the one that was closest to Him (John) then the three (Peter, James, John) and then the 12 (disciples).  Jesus did have people he was close to, and yes, in leadership.  Jesus also got hurt and betrayed by them (Judas) and yet He did it anyway.  I chose to do it too knowing that I would probably get hurt a few times.  I have.  I’ve been brutally betrayed!  So bad once that I went to Christian counseling to pick up the pieces.  And I waited a while to open my heart to another friend.  But I did.  I discovered that the same walls that keep you from being hurt also keep you from being loved.  I am not willing to live a loveless or friendless life.  If there’s anything we need in the ministry, it’s a friend or two.  And friendship gets messy sometimes.  And that’s okay.  It was messy for Jesus too.

One of my greatest defining moments was when I was angry at myself for having trusted a leader who betrayed me in our previous church.  Although I kept going through the motions of “my job” at the church, I pulled away from people and one on one ministry as much as possible for about six months to a year and vowed to never get close again.  One day I was crying out to God and I said, “I know, I know, I’m such a dunce!!  How could I have let them into my heart like that, up close and make myself vulnerable for them to hurt me?”  And very clearly the Lord spoke to me and said, “Do you think I’m a dunce?”  And I said, “Of course not!   You’re the Lord!”   And he said, “Well, I let Judas into my circle – on purpose, in advance, even knowing what He would do.  It’s never for nothing when you love with no return.”  That moment totally rocked my world.  I realized I was not dumb to let this leader into my life on a deeper level.  They blew it.  It was unwise on their part.  People are people and sometimes things like this happen.  But it was God’s will for me to open my heart again after prayerful consideration.  I have gone on to have much closer friends and have never been sorry for it.    If it’s good enough for Jesus…

11. What mistakes did you make that you would advise other leaders not to make?

How much time do we have here?  It would take all day for me to tell you…

First, I’d take more time off.  I am really good at doing this now and have been for several years.  But prior to that I wasn’t so good at it.  Particularly in our former church, I set the people up for a level of reliance on me that just wasn’t healthy.  I took so little time off and they were perfectly happy to let me.  If I had it to do over again I would not be personally unhealthy at the expense of the church, not for a moment.

Second, I wish I would have prayed more about things earlier in our ministry.   

Third, I would have realized that sometimes you win the smaller battles but lose the war.  I fought on a lot of things that were just stupid.  

Fourth, I would have NEVER tried to talk someone into staying in the church when they want to leave.  

Fifth, I’d put more emphasis on health instead of growth with the understanding that with health comes growth.

Like I said, I could go on and on with my mistakes…these are just a few.

12. What advice can you give a young person like me who is entering leadership?

First, spend time in the Word and prayer not just as a discipline, but a love relationship with the Father.  He’s not mad when you don’t show up – He’s sad.  Because He longs to be with you.  Having an intimate relationship with God, you can make it through anything that comes your way in leadership or otherwise.  They say the one thing constant in life is change.  The way to navigate change is to hold to God’s unchanging hand.  That’s more than the lyrics of an old song – it’s reality.  You’re either coming out of a change or preparing for one and the thing that holds you steady through a change is a rock solid relationship with Jesus.    

Second, prioritize personal health.  I regret sacrificing my personal health for the church for so many years.  One man died for the church.  We don’t have to.  We’ve only been given one body in this life, to carry us through all the days of our lives to finish the work God called us to do.  If we’re incapacitated or dead we can’t finish it.  We can finish it while in pain but it’s just more exhausting and who needs that?  Take care of yourself.  I read an article by Bill Hybels who said he learned from Dee Hock (a leadership expert) that we need to spend 50% of our time leading ourselves before we lead anyone else.  Upon hearing that years ago I made some major changes.  I am committed to taking care of myself and not breaking self-promises.  For years I made sure I never broke a promise to anyone else but I’d break ones I made to myself daily.  I’d have a plan to ride my bike and exercise and then someone would call and ask me to minister to a need and I’d put my bike ride aside saying, “oh, it’s only me…I can do that another time.”  A lot of our health boils down to self respect.  We teach people how to treat us.  I don’t feel bad anymore when I gently decline a request or expectation of someone else to give due diligence to what God has asked me to do in caring for myself first.  This ultimately makes me stronger so that I can pour out to others.

Third, prioritize time with your family.  Just today I was talking with one of my job seekers.  (I’m a certified job coach.)  She made a decision to leave the corporate world and was afraid to tell me (her job coach) that she was no longer going to look for a job outside the home.  She had prayerfully come to a decision to leave the business world to stay home with her children.  Fear melted to relief when I told her that I was thrilled for her decision.  I shared with her that I’ve accomplished a few things in my life but none greater than my marriage or three children.   If your family is serving God wholeheartedly, the rest in life is gravy.  

Fourth, remember – when everything is going wrong it’s not your fault.  And, conversely, when everything is going right it’s not your fault either.  

Fifth and finally - there are so many things I could share but I will close with this.  After all Jesus has done for us, there is no situation too difficult, no conversation too hard, nothing that we might have to do in leadership that is not worth it when it comes to following Him and His will for every situation.   The thing leaders tend to fear most is conflict.  I understand.  Like many leaders, we’ve been homeless, jobless and broke before because of conflict.  Conflict we didn’t ask for or want!  I always dread conflict.  I don’t think normal people ever look forward to it with anticipation.  Often we fear conflict because we fear change and what might happen as a result of addressing things.  I have learned that there is no ramification too great for me to NOT be a person of integrity and follow what God has asked me to do in any given situation.   As a leader popularity or security can never be our idol if we are to live integral lives.  Nothing is too difficult to address when we remember all the Lord has done for us.  Let us boldly lead in whatever way He is asking us to.   The Lord is our Shepherd and He will take care of us whether on the mountain or in the valley. 

Comments

Anonymous said…
Excellent interview! Wow, such wisdom from one so young!
Thanks. That means a lot! Love you

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