3 important ways to lead through adversity

My pastor-father had his fair share of critics in nearly 50 years of leadership. As a young child I watched him maneuver this, taking mental notes and eavesdropping at my bedroom door during the occasional home drop-by meeting. When he eventually lost his large church over a highly publicized scandal with the IRS, I was left with confusion, disillusionment and my own questions about leadership, to follow me for years. I knew what both leadership and adversity looked like. I just wasn’t sure how they could successfully co-exist.

So when God placed a relentless call to leadership within my bones as a young woman, there were more than a few internal issues to untangle. If my early ministry years were spent running from a yes, my subsequent years were spent in jaded, yet willing surrender, begging God to help me and my ministry comrades keep it real. There was no magic moment God changed things. It was in the continued walking out of my call, rickety at times as it was (and still is), that He changed me and gave me eyes to see what kind of leader it takes to be tried, tested and true in the end as we lead through adversity.

1. Weigh words.

In the face of adversity, two things typically happen with leaders: words come our way and they come out of us. In the former, we often take on criticism or praise, both equally destructive if not surrendered to God. While we cannot spend our time allowing nose-bleed seat naysayers to tear us down and determine our course, we also must ask God to use the critical voices to speak to us about things we need to change, if there’s spiritual merit. In the same way, we must turn to God for wisdom to know how and when to speak, as He is the only One who modeled both silent and vocal leadership, perfectly.

2. Practice sameness.

There’s a little discussed but highly important aspect of being a leader in these tough times, and it’s something I call “the ministry of sameness” in my book, Put Your Warrior Boots On. It is especially important for leaders to practice this in the face of adversity, as others look to us to be a consistent, steady place. “What the world needs from us is a steadfast life: preaching the same, loving the same, doing the same, being the same, no matter what. A ministry of sameness. The gift of stability.

And it’s not just the unbelievers who need it. We, the Jesus followers, need the ministry of strength and sameness from each other, too, as the body of Christ is greatly encouraged when, despite our struggles, we see each other maintain a steadfast faith in God. It is as Paul writes to the Thessalonians to say in his beautifully brotherly way…“It gives us new life, knowing you remain strong in the Lord” (1 Thess. 3:8 NLT). Jesus followers are buoyed in faith by one who remains. How rare is this commodity, in this day and time, with all the flux and instability, and how welcomed is a strong, anchored life.

The ministry of sameness is not about the unwillingness to grow; it is about being a solid, consistent person to count on. People will know they can count on Jesus by how consistently His followers live.”

~Put Your Warrior Boots On, “I Will Follow God, Forever, Chapter 7

3. Prepare for longevity.

Too many leaders are on the fast track to burnout due to a lack of foresight about what is ahead and ignoring the need for pacing, rest, recovery, and long-term soul care plans. “Passion without preparation is a good intention designed to fail,” (Put Your Warrior Boots On) and never is this so true as in leadership. Leaders have to practice healthy boundaries. We must learn when to rest, take a step back, and pace ourselves so we can keep running a faithful race, influencing others for life. It is arrogant and ignorant to think we can do it all, be it all, and do it all well. Leaders who survive and even thrive in the midst of adversity are the ones who have consistently consulted with God and sought the sage counsel of those who have gone before us to help prepare to lead for the long haul.

We will never practice perfect leadership in the face of adversity, nor at any other time, as that distinction has only ever been held by one: Jesus Christ. But as we weigh our words, practice the ministry of sameness, and prepare for longevity, we become the kind of leader who faces adversity with grace and strength and can by the grace of God, weather even the toughest of leadership storms.

Lisa Whittle

is a leader, author and speaker with a heart and passion to communicate one thing: Jesus is everything. Her love runs deep to see people pursue Jesus for life, grow deep roots of faith, and walk strong in the midst of a world that so often seems to have gone crazy. She is the author of seven books, including her latest Put Your Warrior Boots On and Five-Word Prayers, and a sought out Bible teacher for her wit and bold, bottom line approach. She is a wife and mother of three who currently resides in North Carolina. Visit her at LisaWhittle.com.


Join the discussion

Susan Gruener November 13, 2017 at 8:59am

Thanks for this today!
A good word!

Annamae Sterling November 12, 2017 at 2:05am

Thank-you so much for this Lisa. I do not have the official title of leader but there is change going on in and around me. As a firm believer my attitude is that nothing happens to us that our loving Lord does not know about. The adversity is with my sister as we have had to go our own separate ways to make sense out of life. She is a believer as well . I have been working for the same company for 18 years at the same level. We have restructured at work.