Leadership Through Tough Times - The Warrior's Journey®

Leadership Through Tough Times

Author: Chaplain, COL Scott McChrystal, USA (Ret.)

Before the Storm. Photo by Marines is licensed under CC By 2.0

“But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.” Acts 27:22 (NIV)

These words spoken by the Apostle Paul couldn’t have come at a more crucial time. Death was imminent, and the other 275 passengers on board needed to hear a message of hope.

GREAT LAKES, Ill. (April 16, 2020) Boatswain's mate 2nd class Marcus Murphy teaches basic seamanship skills to recruits inside USS Marlinespike at Recruit Training Command. More than 35,000 recruits train annually at the Navy's only boot camp. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Camilo Fernan/Released)200416-N-BM202-1504

Interestingly, Paul was not the captain of this ship, but rather a prisoner being transported to Rome to stand trial before Caesar. He was facing charges for preaching the very faith that everyone on the vessel desperately needed to hear. God’s help was their only hope.

Paul was a leader, and he did what leaders do during times of crisis. They step up. While others are frozen with fear, leaders assess the situation and make decisions that benefit people around them. They lead.

First, an interesting observation. True leaders demonstrate the capability to lead in situations beyond the boundaries of their expertise or experience. This was Paul’s lot. He had no training as a mariner. He was bi-vocational- a tent maker and preacher of the Gospel. At some future time you, too, may find yourself in a critical situation where there is no designated leader. Someone may have to step up. Might you be that person?

So, what can you do to prepare for a contingency like this? Though you don’t know when the challenge may come or the form it may take, there are steps you can take in advance. This historical account provides a number of principles that can help any leader to become a better one. Let’s examine two of them.

Principle 1: Grow in your knowledge of God and His Word.

FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- The Under Secretary of the Army, Hon. Brad Carson, discusses weapons systems with a Special Forces Soldier during a walkthrough on Range 37, Fort Bragg. Hon. Carson met with USASOC Soldiers to gain firsthand knowledge of Army Special Operations Forces and their capabilities.

As your Creator, God wants to help you grow and be transformed into the person He designed you to become. This is a life-long process. The more you spend time with the Lord and learn His character and His ways, the more you will become like Jesus. Paul spent time with God. The Lord transformed him in radical ways.

 How do you spend time with the Lord? It’s not complicated but it will require discipline and sacrifice.

  • Read and study God’s Word. It works best when you establish a reading plan that includes reading and studying all of God’s Word, not just the New Testament or your favorite passages. To begin, I would suggest reading for five to ten minutes.
  • Pray. Spend time in prayer every day. Five to ten minutes would be a great start. There are numerous patterns you can practice. Before you know it, you will look forward to spending time with God. But don’t just speak to Him. Listen to Him. He wants to communicate.
  • Attend a local church. Christianity is not meant to be done solo. The Lord wants you to worship with other believers. You will learn and grow as you worship, study His Word, and fellowship with other people who are following Jesus. You’ll find many opportunities to mutually encourage one another and to serve with them as well. 
  • Practice putting your faith into action. God’s intent for developing you is not for you alone. He wants you to serve others. Look around for ways to do this: in your marriage and family, at work, in your church, in your community, etc.

Remember this. When you grow in your relationship with Jesus, you are spending time and learning from the greatest leader who ever lived. There isn’t anyone else who can compare. When it comes leading in tough and difficult circumstances, Jesus is our example.

Principle 2: Prepare your mind, heart, and body.

U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, engage in physical training using COVID-19 mitigating measures during a company-wide squad competition on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, April 16, 2020. 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines conducted the competition in order to train and remain tactically proficient while mitigating risks of the COVID-19 environment. (U.S Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob Wilson)

If your goal is excellence in whatever you do, you will have to perform the necessary preparation and develop the right mindset. Start steeling your mind and heart that you are a leader of wisdom and courage, one who will step up and not cower as a helpless victim when the crisis comes.

Allow me (Scott) to get personal and illustrate how I have been preparing myself for one kind of situation. Beginning with 9/11, terrorist attacks have been on the increase- toward nations, organizations, and even individuals. Especially sad have been the attacks taking place in our schools. Innocent children have died right and left. Too many times the schools have been unprepared. Fortunately, in a few cases individuals on the scene have responded heroically and helped to save lives. Others, even paid security guards, have failed to take decisive action.

So, what am I doing? Given my military background to include being a combat Veteran, I don’t intend to lay back if a shooter comes into my home, a restaurant, church, or some other setting. The actions I may have to take will most likely involve words and action. In crisis situations, the people around you need verbal encouragement and clear instructions in addition to whatever actions you need to take.

Though I might die in the process, I plan to take action. I see myself as expendable if it might save lives. I stay in good physical shape to include being able to move quickly if necessary. I practice staying alert in public places and look for folks who might want to start trouble. Bottom line: I have already decided that I will take some form of action to stop the killing even if it means giving my life. I don’t want this to happen, but I am ready.

The desire to become a leader who can lead during tough times is a noble goal, and a reachable one. The Bible is replete with examples of ordinary men and women who stepped up in dire circumstances and led with wisdom, courage, and decisiveness. They succeeded for many reasons, but two stand above the rest.

First, they chose to believe and obey the Lord. Second, they knew God’s presence was with them. Though they were all too aware of their human limitations, they believed that an all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever-present Lord was with them.

The Lord loves you just as much and will help you lead to the glory of God.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/usnavy/49805658901/ ( By U.S. Navy [Official Page] Licensed under CC by 2.0)
https://www.flickr.com/photos/soldiersmediacenter/14484124149/ (By U.S. Army, Licensed under CC by 2.0)
https://www.flickr.com/photos/marine_corps/49852959516/ (By Marines, Licensed under CC by NC 2.0)

The content of this Devotional comes from “Daily Strength for the Battle (You, God’s Word, 5 Minutes): Volume 6 Developing the Leader in You” (2020) and is copyrighted by Scott and Judy McChrystal. Used with permission.

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