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Are You Thinkin’ What I’m Thinkin’?

I’ve got ideas.  You’ve got ideas.  I’ve got a will.  You’ve got a will.  As long as your ideas are different than mine, and as long as your will takes you in a different direction than the way I want to go, we will either collide or stalemate.  On the other hand, if we get together on each of our ideas and wills, we can make something happen on a scale larger than either of us.  Two or more people, therefore, must coordinate their combined ideas and wills with each other to make any venture successful.  They both need to be “thinkin’” the same thing.  This, I think, pretty much sums up the challenge of leadership. 

It all begins by locating the starting position.  The farther apart people are from their leader in their thinking at the outset, the more energy must be expended in order to bring them together.  In a simplistic example, a coach cannot build a successful basketball team with one basketball player, a football player, a baseball player, a bowler and a race car driver.  At the very least, all of his team members must have a common background in basketball.  Theoretically, it may be possible, but the coach may well go crazy before he succeeds.  

Similarly, in the work of God, if people want to form a bond over the long term, they must gather together under the umbrella of shared doctrine, faith, mission and commitment to the cause.  Indeed, this is the reason for the plethora of denominations.  Those holding radically differing theological views can rarely set them aside in order to work toward a common goal, especially if they believe their views are basic to salvation.  They may tolerate each other long enough to achieve some intermediate objectives, but any unity they manage to build will eventually disintegrate.  (As an aside, this may be a good reason for differing denominations, but splits within a denomination or organization often result from incorrigible temperaments rather than strong convictions!)  In a more likely scenario, a choir needs diversity in vocal range, but in terms of style, musical tastes and talent, they need to be on the same page.  

Once the unanimity of a starting position has been achieved, the next hurdle to clear is submission.  Unsubmitted wills sabotage the best of ideas.  Sports teams  that feature a roster of stars, for example, encounter this problem.  Despite the awesome talent that the individual players possess, their personalities and dispositions sometimes render them unmanageable.  The exasperated coach spends the majority of his time trying to get them to like each other, respect each other and play together as a team.  Five, nine or eleven prima donnas doing their own thing almost guarantees a loss.  

Unfortunately, this condition characterizes too many spiritual endeavors as well.  Church boards whose members fight among each other, church staffs that cannot get along, and choirs and musical groups in which individuals vie for the spotlight will all end up in conflict that takes them nowhere.  To succeed, they must not only find common ground doctrinally, they must also submit to the voice of the leader.  Submission is a decision.  Each member can and must make a conscious choice to suppress his or her differing ideas and permit the ideas of the leader to prevail.  Disagreement with the thinking of the leader does not justify resisting or rejecting leadership.  Bad ideas will eventually reveal themselves.  Good ideas, however, can seem bad if the team will not submit to them.  Nothing leads to failure any faster or more thoroughly than bucking the leader. 

In the case of a sports team, if a team’s success requires harmony and submission, the responsibility to get the players to that point falls to the leader.  No leader can be derelict in this aspect of duty because herein lies the core of leadership.  Leaders may be able to compensate for deficiencies in technique, strategy and training by bringing in experts in these areas.  He or she cannot, however, bring in an assistant to lead.  If that were possible, then the obvious answer to the team’s misfortunes is to fire the leader and hire the assistant.  The leader must understand the thinking of those in his or her charge and then direct the team to a new concept of playing the game.  

True unity is not superficial.  It goes deep.  People in unity share more than goals; they share purpose, heart, vision and friendship.  Keep in mind, however, that qualities which foster this kind of unity may not be easily acquired.  More often than not, it can only be obtained through struggling, differing, honing, adjusting, rising, falling, hurting, helping and processing.  Fighting among elements of the organization may not signal disunity, but unity in ascendency.  At stake are not persons, but ideas.  Bad ideas need to be given a chance to succeed; if they are defeated, it must be by means of a fair and square fight.  When the organization allows superior ideas to rise to the top, the organization itself will succeed.

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