The Value of Learning to Lead Under Pressure

Pressure is an opportunity to grow, if you maintain the right attitude.

As I write this, we’re three days from our church’s big grand opening at our new location.

Our church is seven years old. We’ve met in an office, a hotel, a college campus, two movie theaters, and for the last three years, a leased location.

Almost a year ago, we bought what used to be a kid’s party and play place.

This week, the exterior is being painted, signage is being installed, the final pieces of audio-video tech are getting dialed in, and we were finally cleared for occupancy. It’s getting real.

Now all we really have to deal with is the weather—right now there’s the possibility of a March winter weather event with a few inches of snow falling on Sunday morning!

At the end of the day, it won’t matter too much. What really counts isn’t what happens on a single Sunday. It’s what happens Sunday after Sunday as we become the church God is calling us to be. What matters is that we’re driven by God’s purposes and never by buildings, budgets, traditions, programs or personalities.

As a leader, I’ve found myself needing to get a lot of things done in this last year. We’ve needed to raise funds; make plans; show up at closings; and sign lots of paperwork; hire architects and contractors; ask for lease extensions; order signage; manage expectations, schedules, and deadlines; work with cities; get moved out; get moved in; argue with utility companies; and motivate staff and volunteers.

Sounds like a lot, but in reality, I’m surrounded by totally amazing people. Our staff and leadership team is amazing. My wife has been amazing. Our church is full of people who love giving their time, talent and treasure. And we hired an amazing contractor, too.

One of the biggest lessons God has taught me in the last year is the value of leading under pressure.

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Don’t get me wrong. I don’t actually like pressure. I don’t invite it. I don’t always perform well under it. Not once have I ever said to anyone, Ya know, what I’d really like right now is some more pressure.

But I have come to embrace the truth that when the pressure rises, people can rise, too. We grow under pressure, and that’s just the way God designed us.

They say that heat+pressure+time is what produces diamonds. It takes the same exact combination to produce a good waffle, too, but I digress …

When the pressure is on in your leadership, you can rest assured it’s time to do some growing. Good things are right around the corner. You’re being squeezed for a reason, and the reason is usually so that you will be made ready for whatever success or prosperity lies ahead.

But whether pressure builds you up or crushes you will depend on one factor—your willingness to keep going through it.

You can complain, think the worst, prophecy failure and pain over your future, and retreat. You’ll miss out on the victory, but you’ll also avoid some hard work and the pain of change.

Or, you can embrace the pressure you’re under and be reminded that it’s ultimately for your good.

When the deadline is looming, the resources are short, some people are getting uneasy, and you feel like you’re almost to the end of your ability to win in this moment, remember that leaders are always, always forged through heat, under pressure, over time. Like a good waffle. Or diamond. Whichever is the more motivating picture for you.

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How you choose to label this moment, what you choose to think about this moment and how you choose to move forward in this moment make all the difference in your growing into the leader God desires for you to become.