Eight steps to help navigate your leadership minefields

by Colonel Mandy Birch, United States Air Force Reserve

Here are eight points to calculate leadership risks in order to face the fears of a politically correct climate with a moral courage that matches the bravery of those we lead on the battlefield.

1. Identify the truth or moral responsibility.  

  • Is military indoctrination blinding me to a higher moral calling?
  • Do I dress up personal preferences on disputable issues as God’s moral law?
  • Am I seriously considering my responsibility to meet each member’s spiritual needs?
  • Do I recognize that many serious personal issues arising among those I lead are rooted in poor spiritual health?

2. Accept the situation.

  • We are unlikely to reverse law, policy or service culture.
  • Considering ourselves as policy victims is inconsistent with God’s truth: “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
  • Upon appointment to a special position of trust and influence as a military officer, we voluntarily ceded some private rights in our official capacity.
  • We must accept the team our nation gives us, to care for each soul we’re charged to lead: physically, socially, mentally and spiritually. 
  • Judgmental attitudes do little to “make the teaching about God our Savior attractive” (Titus 2:10).

3. Know the battlefield.

  • Many mines can be mapped: know the law, the policy, your chain of command.
  • You have religious rights and spiritual responsibilities. Know them. Read The Religious Rights of Those in Uniform by Robert Weston Ash: http://www.ocfusa.org/static/uploads/religious-rights-series.pdf
  • Understand how God wired men and women differently: seek out biblical texts on gender strengths and weaknesses (often presented for husbands and wives, but see also Luke 15—the same parable told differently to men and women—and Jesus’ example of casting aside societal stereotypes in Luke 10:38-42). 
  • Know what your gender and faith stereotypes are and how they affect your thoughts and behaviors by taking Harvard’s Project Implicit test. It’s free.

4. Remain alert.

  • You will be among wolves; some are in sheep’s clothing (Matt 10:16). Recognize potential traps such as insincere questions (John 8:3-11).
  • Are you or your unit hindering God-given talents aligned with gender? Or discriminating because of religious beliefs? Do you and your followers show respect for each person God has created?
  • As you discuss spiritual needs with others, listen more than you speak. Read body language and expressions carefully.
  • Guide conversations by asking questions (Matt 22:15-22).
  • Be aware of how emotional expressions such as anger and tears can affect the loyalty and motivation of those you lead. 

5. Anticipate the battles.

  • Know the climate in your unit and the views of your superiors.
  • How will you respond if asked about gender roles or your faith and beliefs? Preparedness leads to courage.
  • Be prepared to give an answer with gentleness, respect, and a clear conscience (1 Peter 3:15-16). Your words should glorify God, not stir up fear or discord.
  • To appropriately share your beliefs in a God-honoring way decide in advance with whom and in what context.

6. Choose a course of action.

  • Over-analysis can lead to inaction. Seek courage and wisdom from Scripture, prayer, and trustworthy, mature Christians—then make choice. Not making a choice is in itself a choice.
  • Is God calling you to a particular action? Or are you just trying to make a point? Ensure that pride, stubbornness, and rebelliousness don’t sway your decisions.
  • All those you lead are unique: observe, adapt, and choose actions best meeting their needs.
  • Consider the needs of your followers above your own. Choose communication and feedback styles based on the needs of your followers rather than your own preferred style.
  • The best moral choice isn’t always the least risky legal choice. True courage is in knowing the risk, yet proceeding because of the expected outcome’s value.

7. Act.

  • Choosing a course of action and carrying it out aren’t necessarily the same thing. The best battle plan is useless if it remains on the shelf.
  • Once you’ve resolved the best moral choice, with direction from God, follow through with what you decide. 

8. Accept personal responsibility.

  • Your choices and actions have consequences (Philippians 2). Honorably face your circumstances by accepting responsibility for your choices. A warrior’s true character is often revealed in the heat of battle.
  • Set aside pride and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.
  • Remain confident that God continues working through His obedient servants.
  • Don’t fear the trials associated with decisions (James 1:3-4), or those who can kill the body (or career) but cannot kill the soul (Matthew 10:26-42). God knows your needs. 

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