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I have been disappointed by how many church leaders avoid having crucial conversations as if they were the bubonic plague. Instead, they believe the innuendos, reasoning, and deductions they’ve never investigated but have received as factual, allowing them to shape the way they view others. This, of course, limits the depth of their personal relationships. It’s mind boggling. Having a conversation takes much less energy!

I’ve watched senior leaders allow leaders under their purview to mistreat others who then hope someone else will confront that leader about this hurtful behavior. The culture of an organization or church will be as healthy as the senior leader allows it to be. In an unhealthy and fractured culture, we’ll find rampant discord and lack of trust. Having crucial conversations is a way of guarding against the schemes of the enemy and preventing the little foxes from spoiling the vine (Song of Songs 2:15).

Effective leadership requires great courage. A fractured leadership culture leaves in its wake a trail of wounded people and broken relationships. To counter this we must learn the value of confronting rather than believing hearsay and every thought that enters our minds. We need to courageously confront the truth in ourselves and others and accept that we are not always right—we misjudge situations often because we view current realities through the lens of a flawed and broken past. Conversations help us to not work overtime trying to figure out why someone did or said something. Just ask that person!

In her book Fierce Conversations Susan Scott writes,

All confrontation is a search for truth. Who owns the truth? Each of us owns a piece of it, and nobody owns all of it. Let us keep in mind that confrontation is a conversation. As with all fierce conversations, the four purposes of a confrontation are to: interrogate reality, provoke learning, tackle tough challenges and enrich relationships.

Before engaging in a fierce conversation, we have to be open to the reality that we might have been mistaken in our initial understanding of an issue. Searching for truth will require us to analyze objectively and critically, knowing that the enemy desires no resolution and severed relationships. Our position in the conversation is that God has the power to redeem all things, even misunderstandings. Our goal is truth, learning, and understanding.

Those who identify as leaders have to get used to having fierce conversations. The people we lead will thank us for creating a healthy and safe culture where abuse and mistreatment of others are confronted and not tolerated. When we do, we’ll experience longevity of service and greater productivity within our team. Our decision about whether or not to have a fierce conversation shouldn’t depend on how the other person might respond.

Without fierce conversations our ability to preserve the integrity of our relationships will be hindered. So, when we recognize that change must take place, we don’t hope for others to do what needs to be done. We just do it!


“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (James 4:6). Effective leaders are committed to lifelong learning. While seminary education is valuable for those who feel called to ministry, serving God doesn’t require a degree or certification— just a willing heart. But as we administer our duties of leadership, wanting to learn from others who’ve traveled the road we’re undertaking is natural. Adding tools to our toolbox and keeping up with the changing needs of people and culture will serve us well as we lead people, teams, and organizations. Everybody wins when a leader gets better.

To aid my leadership development I attend conferences. For the past eight years I have attended the Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit (GLS), a two-day program offering leadership development sessions from some of today’s best thought leaders. I have also attended the Growth Skills Foundation Ultimate Leadership Intensive with Henry Cloud and John Townsend. I arrived at the training with an open heart, not knowing what to expect. I was blown away by the teaching and the time allotted for processing and application, which uncovered areas of my emotional health and professional development I am committed to improving on.

As part of the intensive I was reminded about the value of accountability partners. Shortly after the training one of my accountability partners called to find out how I was tracking with one of my goals. I appreciated her remembering and was happy to report that I had made some improvements.

Accountability partners help us manage our blind spots. They should be people we trust whose intentions toward us are clear. They will not stroke us when we’re wrong but instead will confront us with the truth. These are people we feel free to be transparent with, even when we are suffering. Those who are mentoring us make good accountability partners. So do individuals who are operating at the same level of leadership as we are and have a similar life experience. I have five accountability partners; I know I can find safety, truth, and trust with each.

I have a library in my home full of books from seminary, work, and ministry. The number of resources that can make us more effective in leadership is endless. The choice to be better is ours. I hope each of us will commit to continual spiritual, emotional, and mental replenishment. We should make a yearly appointment on our calendars and set a goal for the number of books we’d like to read per quarter. It might be good to invite our leadership team to join us. I’ve never met a person who didn’t value this kind of investment.


Effective leadership requires great intentionality. Leadership is not easy; it is a call that must be answered and handled with great responsibility. In most cases the leaders who made the greatest impact on us are those who affirmed us, valued our work, invested in us, pushed us toward goals we never thought attainable, and uncovered gifts and talents we didn’t know we had. They may have been gifted to serve us in these ways. I can guarantee they felt called to invest in leaders like us and sought out opportunities to do so. There is a generation of people needing us to do the same.

A large part of my leadership is seeking to represent the type of leadership I wish I had had. I want to be better for those I serve alongside. I hope I’ll create far more meaningful experiences for them than some leaders offered to me. In my presence I want those I lead and serve to know I value and support them, that I’m committed to their success, and that it is an honor to have them in my life.

This is what Jesus did. He affirmed, redeemed, and empowered everyday people everywhere he traveled.  We are invited to do the same.

Taken from The Leader in You by Ebony S. Small. Copyright (c) 2020 by Ebony Small. Published by I

nterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL.

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