Leadership Tensions: Ambition vs. Self-Control

Most leaders are driven and ambitious.  We see opportunities and we go after them.  We see farther than others can see and help lead people to those possibilities.

At its best, our ambition is part of our gift of leadership and serves to propel the mission forward.

At its worst, our ambition steamrolls those we serve and may crush the work that God is doing through us.

This is why we as leaders have to be constantly measuring our ambition with the fruit of the spirit of self-control.

Unbridled ambition becomes destructive, but when we filter it through self-control we can more appropriately strike the balance of being an effective yet driven leader.

Self-control is simply “exercising restraint over our impulses, emotions and desires”.  (Merriam-Webster)

The implications of this are huge!

We are never honoring God with our gift of leadership, if we are abandoning one of the character qualities He has called us to. 

If our ambition is fueled by our own desires or impulses, it’s not God-honoring.  But when our ambition is filtered through self-control, we remove our selfish desires and are driven by a passion for implementing God’s plan and purpose instead.

Self-control helps us eliminate our desires from the leadership equation.

How many times in our leadership, do we push for something because of a desire or emotion that we feel?  The next time you feel yourself beginning to lead from an emotional reaction, pull back and filter it through self-control.

Can you think of a situation where you have recently let ambition drive your leadership without the filter of self-control? 

A Year of Biblical Womanhood

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED: Congrats to April who was the winner!


I have to say, that I was really looking forward to reading Rachel Held Evans new book.  Rachel is a thought leader who is stretching the discussions of our faith.  I was particularly intrigued by what her perspective would be on the issue of biblical womanhood.  That’s a can that very few are brave enough to open.  Rachel does so with a great deal of wit, humor, a splash of sass and yet a deep desire to challenge us to rethink some of the perspectives that have been passed down through our religious traditions.

I can’t aptly describe the anecdotes that made me laugh out loud or or exclaim, “Oh my, I can’t believe she did that!”  You’ll have to read it to enjoy those things.  But here are a few quotes from the book that resonated with me:

“We cause serious collateral damage to the advancement of our sex each time we perpetuate the stereotype that women can’t get along.”

“But in our efforts to celebrate and affirm God’s presence in the home, we should be wary of elevating the vocation of homemaking above all others by insinuating that for women, God’s presence is somehow restricted to that sphere.  Peace and joy belong not to the woman who finds the right vocation, but to the woman who finds God in any vocation, who looks for the divine around every corner.”

“One need not be a saint, or even a mother, to become a bearer of God.  One needs only to obey.  The divine resides in all of us, but it is our choice to magnify it or diminish it, to ignore it or to surrender to its lead.”

“That Christ ushered in this new era of life and liberation in the presence of women, and that he sent them out as the first witnesses of the complete gospel story, is perhaps the boldest, most overt affirmation of their equality in his kingdom that Jesus ever delivered.” (referring to Mary Magdalene being the first to see Jesus after his resurrection)

“The Bible does not present us with a single model of biblical womanhood, and the notion that it contains a sort of one-size-fits-all formula for how to be a woman of faith is a myth.”

I’m admit, this subject makes me sweat a bit.  The confusion and inconsistency in interpretation of the scripture as it relates to women has been an exhausting topic of conversation for me. I appreciate Rachel’s willingness to run right into the fray and provide some perspective for new thought and conversation.

What is the most confusing part of scripture as it relates to women that you wrestle with?

I have a copy of A Year of Biblical Womanhood to give away.  I’ll randomly select a winner from the comments on Monday 11/12.


An Open Letter to the Next President

Dear Mr. President,

By the close of today you will know your responsibility for the next four years.  You will shoulder a burden of leadership that very few will ever bear.  You will be stretched, strengthened, broken and bruised more than you thought humanly possible.  I suspect there will be many days when you would prefer to walk away.  There will be other days when the joy of a significant moment will make it all seem worth it.

I can’t pretend to completely understand what it feels like to walk in your shoes.  I will probably never understand the level of pressure you endure, the agonizing decisions you face or the extreme loneliness and isolation you must feel.  But I do know that leadership involves all those things and the higher the leadership responsibility, the greater the degree of those stresses.

I’m sorry that a race for the Presidency is convoluted with political drama.  Rather than the merit of your leadership ability, it seems we judge you on your appearance and ability to woo a crowd.  The charisma that got you to this position is only a fraction of the abilities that are essential to lead us well.

We expect a lot from you.  We want you to be charming, handsome and charismatic.  We never want to see you sweat.  We all believe we can do your job better than you can and we are quick to tell you so.  We want you to make brilliant decisions everyday all day and we want those decisions to be ones that we all agree with.  We realize that’s impossible, but we expect it nonetheless.  We want you to be caring and compassionate but we also want you to be strong and stable.  We want you to fix all our problems without making us uncomfortable.  We want you to be our hero and our savior.  We want you to fix problems that many of us share the responsibility for creating.  We want you to fix problems that other leaders have created and we want you to do it now.  We’re impatient, intolerant, entitled and spoiled.

I’m tempted to apologize for those expectations but honestly I’m pretty sure you understand them and you still chose to lead us anyway.

May you rise to the challenge.  May God equip you with wisdom, humility and grace.

I commit to pray for you as you lead us these next four years.


Jenni Catron

Leadership Tensions: Ownership vs. Stewardship

Happy Monday everyone!  Today we’re continuing our leadership tensions series with Ownership vs. Stewardship.

As I began writing this post I really felt like this equation had one more step:

Renter vs. Owner vs. Steward

Most leaders aspire to move their staff from renters to owners.  The theory being that we want full engagement rather than passive involvement.  Renters take.  Owners invest.  We want teams who feel ownership of the process and decisions.  The more they feel a part of the purpose and goals of the organization, the more care and intentionality they will have in their part.

In fact, at Cross Point one of our staff values is “Own It”.  I describe that value in more detail in this post.

But the leadership tension with the idea of ownership is that ownership can have a tendency to drift towards entitlement.  The more invested I am in something, the more costly it would be to lose.  The more control I have acquired, the more insecure I become about things not going my way.

Stewardship on the other hand recognizes that I’ve been entrusted with something valuable and I have a responsibility to give it my best care.  I don’t own it but I’ve been given an amazing privilege.

The trouble with leading through this tension is that ownership is so highly valued in our culture that we have a tendency to completely abdicate responsibility and walk away (rent) if we don’t have full control (ownership).

If these are your hands and in them God has placed your role and responsibilities, as a steward you would keep your hands open and gently hold those items being sensitive to how God leads you and directs you.  You would carry them confidently yet gently.  You would be a steward.

When you become complacent, bored, frustrated or disinterested you begin to get tired of holding it.  You don’t see the purpose and you don’t have the energy to keep gently holding this thing that you have little control over.  Before you know it you’ve thrown up your hands and walked away.  You became a renter.

When you become nervous, insecure, threatened or scared your tendency is to start grasping hold of it.  Your fingers begin to curl around it and before you know it, you’ve developed such a death grip that you’re squeezing the life out of it.  You’ve become a frantic owner.

In leading our teams we have to constantly be measuring our pulse of renter vs owner vs steward, both for ourselves and those we lead.

Don’t abdicate.  Don’t death grip.  Steward faithfully!

Is there an area of your life or leadership that you’re either abdicating or controlling?  What could you do to more faithfully begin stewarding it?

How to Make the Most of Every Learning Opportunity

I’m in Dallas for a couple of days with our Cross Point Executive Team.  We’re hanging out at Leadership Network with about a dozen other churches talking about leadership development.

I love these opportunities to get away with our team.  Here are a few things that I recommend to make the most of leadership development opportunities.

1) Listen.  Disconnect from the ordinary noise of your work routine to hear the voices of a different pace.

2) Get out of your comfort zone.  Particularly when you go to a conference as a team, it’s easy to hang out just with each other.  Push yourself to engage with others and learn more about what they’re doing.

3) Ask more questions than you answer.  When you’re having conversations with other churches, try to watch your question to answer ratio.  If you’re answering more questions than you’re asking, you may be losing an opportunity to be teachable.

4) Take notes.   Write down what you hear, what you think and what you hope.  While taking notes of what a speaker is saying, also capture the ideas or action points that are being triggered in your mind.

5) Follow up.  Revisit what you experienced once you get home.  Schedule time for your team to get back together to talk about what you learned and what you hope to implement now that you’re back home.  Knowledge is useless without action.

How do you make the most of learning opportunities?


Trade In the Spotlight & the Superhero Cape

Our culture tends to equate leadership with power and the spotlight.

The top of the ladder is the pinnacle.

Center stage is a territory to siege.

But let me tell you what you rarely hear about the truly great leaders.

The great leaders are not the perceived heroes.

They exchange their spotlight for the spotlight of others.  They defer the credit to those they lead rather than claiming it for themselves.

The truly great leaders see their role as the champion and cheerleaders of others.  Their quest for acknowledgment hits the sidelines.

Great leaders are the hero-makers.  They let others win, succeed and own the spotlight.

This transition from hero to hero-makers, is one of the most difficult parts of truly being a leader.  It’s the death to self that leads you to the level 5 servant leader true leaders aspire to.

I hope to be that leader one day.  Don’t you?

Water Sunday

Hey guys, my friends at Water Missions International have a big event early next year.  If you’re a church leader, this could be a great thing to consider having your church participate in!

What would happen if the American Church came together and said ‘We want to end the global water crisis?’

Water Sunday is an initiative of Water Missions International, inspiring a movement within the Church to respond to the global water crisis. Together, we can be the solution. Water Sunday is the start.

Water Missions International is asking churches across the country to give one Sunday between January and April 2013 to transform lives through safe water. All the resources are available to make sure your church is fully equipped for a Sunday that is as transformational and hassle-free as possible. (You’re going to LOVE the resources – check them out here!) Our desire is that the members of your church would move from being ‘transactional givers’ to passionate people who have been transformed through engaging in the call to care for the thirsty (Isaiah 58).

By combining the efforts of many churches, we are able to make a HUGE impact around the world. In the months that follow Water Sunday, everyone will celebrate together, as photos and stories of transformation pour in from the projects funded through Water Sunday. Your church community will be able to see the faces of those impacted, and the JOY made possible through their efforts.

Water Missions International’s goal is to see lives changed through the transformative power of safe water and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

By partnering through Water Sunday, your church will be part of the active body of Christ responding to urgent physical needs with safe water that will flow forever. In addition, your church will be part of providing the Living Water Jesus talks about in John 4:14 for those who thirst spiritually. Engage your church to join the Body and end the global water crisis.

If you’re a Pastor/Church Staff:  Fill out the “Interested?” Form to receive  your FREE LEADER’S GUIDE.

The vision is for more than 100 churches to participate in Water Sunday this year and provide access to safe water to more than 33,000 people.

Join Water Sunday. Be The Solution.

Leadership Tensions: Tender vs. Tenacious

“Be tender in approach but tenacious in intentionality”  Blake Bergstrom

Blake Bergstrom, the campus pastor for our Nashville Campus, shared this quote in a message awhile back.  I love the quote in general but I particularly love it as it applies to leaders.

It’s another leadership tension… managing the tension of being tender vs. tenacious.  As with most extremes we usually have a tendency to be one or the other rather than a delicate balance of both.  But that’s what great leaders do.  They discern the moments where tenderness is appropriate and they also discern when tenacity is necessary.

Blake’s quote gives some guide rails for us.

Be tender in approach – Treat people respectfully.  Let the fruits of the spirit shine in your interactions with others.


Be tenacious in intentionality – Stay laser-focused on the vision.  Don’t back down from what God’s called you to.  Hold others accountable.

Managing that tension is the mark of a great leader!

Is there a situation in your leadership that requires you to work through this tension right now?

Argue It Out

“Leadership, even at its best, is terribly demanding, and it is crucial that we argue out our ambivalence about our calling to leadership openly with God so that it doesn’t leak out and create uncertainty in those we are serving.”  Ruth Haley Barton from Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership

Do you ever wonder if it’s worth it?

Do you ever just want to walk away?

Have you ever had a day when you gave into your emotions and undermined your leadership influence?

Are you ever tempted to think there must be something – anything – else you could be doing?

Yeah, me too.

But the worst thing you can do is live in that uncertainty.  You have to argue it out for your sake and the sake of those you lead.

In the arguing you’ll find affirmation.

If you’re questioning your calling as a leader, leave a comment so we can pray for you today.


A Solution for Your Staff Development Excuses

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED:  Congrats to Patricia who was the winner!


The day in and day out of a leader’s life can become a bit monotonous.  The routine of the weekly meeting schedule can leave you a bit deprived of inspiration and ideas to move your team forward.  The urgency of pending projects and Sunday programming squeeze out moments for dreaming and planning.

Can you relate?

Overcoming this resistance is a leader’s great challenge.  Adding time for planning and dreaming seems like a pipe dream.  Other teams with more time, more staff, more resources have the luxury of staff trips with guest speakers.  You hope someday you’ll get to that place too.

I’ve wrestled with all those things too.  Here are three excuses that I’ve allowed myself to believe over the years:

1)   We don’t have the time.  There’s never a good time.  Seriously.  No matter how far in advance I plan and strategically arrange the calendar, it never fails that staff development always lands at a terrible time.  Do it anyway.

2)   We don’t have the money.  And there will never be enough.  In fact, I actually have fewer dollars per person to spend on staff training and development than I did five years ago when the staff was 75% smaller.  Ministry dollars are lean.  Get creative.  It doesn’t have to be expensive to be fun and meaningful.

3)   I have to do it all myself.  For years I naively and rather pompously believed that I had to create all the content myself.  We already discussed how we don’t have time, so don’t add extra pressure for yourself.  Involve others in the planning and use tools that already exist.

This week the WCA Leadership Summit Team Edition releases and it’s one of my favorite tools to solve at least two of my three excuses.  It’s an inexpensive way to take great content (that you didn’t have to create) to inspire and motivate your team.

Share with us a creative way that you do staff development.

The WCA team have kindly given me a copy of the 2012 Team Edition to give away, so share creative ideas and I’ll randomly select a winner on Friday, 10/26.