Leading Beyond the Blizzard

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Andy Crouch, Kurt Keilhacker, and Dave Blanchard of Praxis Journal have been reflecting on the future of organisations.

We’re not going back to normal. If you’re a leader in an organisation, it is time to rewrite your vision deck — that presentation so many organizations have that summarises who you are, whom you serve, why you serve them, and what you do and how you do it. In this essay we will explain why we think that for most organisations — businesses, nonprofits, and even churches — this is a time to urgently redesign our work in light of what we believe is not just a weeks-long “blizzard,” not even just a months-long “winter,” but something closer to the beginning of a 12–18 month “ice age” in which many assumptions and approaches must change for good. Almost all of us can and should keep the first three or four slides in our deck; everything else needs to be re-evaluated.

We write especially for leaders of businesses and nonprofit organizations who are fellow Christians, because Christians of all people are equipped to face the current reality with both clear-eyed realism and unparalleled hope. In this essay we outline the major challenges we face and some forward steps we can take, acknowledging that we all are operating with profound uncertainty not only about the future, but even about the present. We write in the confidence that Jesus is Lord, that his Spirit is even now working powerfully in all of our lives, and that God is good.

This time poses the greatest leadership crisis any of us have faced. It can be a moment of amazing creativity, though it also is going to be a time of unavoidable pain and loss. We will discover that while many resources are suddenly unavailable to us, the most essential resource is still available, and the most important reality has not changed. The reality is that God has called us to a time like this, given us a mission and a community to serve alongside, and we still have the most important resource, which is trust in the context of love. Everything depends on how quickly and thoroughly we move to build on that resource, starting today.

The novel corona virus is not just something for leaders to “get through” for a few days or weeks. Instead, we need to treat COVID-19 as an economic and cultural blizzard, winter, and beginning of a “little ice age” — a once-in-a-lifetime change that is likely to affect our lives and organizations for years.

Due to the complex and interconnected nature of our society and economy, the majority of businesses and nonprofits are “effectively out of business” as of today, in that the underlying assumptions that sustained their organization are no longer true.

The priority of leaders must be to set aside confidence in their current playbook as quickly as possible, write a new one that honours their mission and the communities they serve, and make the most of their organization’s assets — their people, financial capital, and social capital, leaning on relationship and trust.

The creative potential for hope and vision is unparalleled right now — but paradoxically this creativity will only be fully available to us if we also make space for grief and lament.

We write this out of love for Christian organizational leaders and their work, with humility in a time of considerable uncertainty, and a prayerful hope that we are proven wrong by God, in his gracious providence, working miraculously through human ingenuity in this season.

The full article can be viewed online in the Praxis Journal

Crouch, A., Keilhacker, K., Blanchard, D (2020) ‘Leading Beyond the Blizzard'. Praxis Journal

Last modified: Saturday, 20 June 2020, 4:21 PM