[This is part 2 of a series on culture building. Part 1 is here.]
When I first became a lead pastor, the task before me seemed nearly impossible. The organization was large, and I was young and inexperienced. Numerous changes were needed, and in many ways it felt like I was the only one who realized it. Looking back, I know this wasn’t true, but it felt true at the time. Even though others knew changes were needed, it was a foggy environment, and clarity of vision was a must. But I didn’t feel like I had any.
As the primary leader, I was responsible to be the chief change agent in the organization. An agent of change is one of three necessary elements in culture building. Another element is clarity of vision.
Clear vision includes three features:
1) Clarity on what is.
I’m in the middle of my sixth year as a lead pastor, and I’ve realized something is true of myself, something that I had only read about before this point. In the early days, I had no trouble calling a spade a spade. When things surfaced that were dysfunctional or in need of radical change, I pointed them out with conviction (sometimes loudly). These days it is a little more difficult. Not because there aren’t spades that need to be called spades, but because I’m responsible for every spade in the spade closet. There comes a certain point where the problems that need solving aren’t problems you inherit, they’re problems with you. In order to change culture, you have to confront these, even if they are rooted in you as the primary leader. You cannot build culture until you are willing to confront reality, even if you are part of the problem.
2) Conviction about what should be.
I’ve worked with a number of leaders over the years that I refer to as ‘obstacle thinkers.’ They are phenomenal at clarifying ‘what is.’ They aren’t afraid to call a spade a spade. They easily spot things that need to be fixed. But the difference between an obstacle thinker and a culture builder is a conviction about what should be. The obstacle thinker spots all the problems that need to be solved; those with clear vision develop a road map to solve them. You cannot develop or cast clear vision until you tune your eyes and ears to the ideal future in your context.
3) Conscience to lead into the future.
I didn’t craft this point because ‘conscience’ starts with a ‘C.’ Clear vision actually requires conscience. By conscience, I mean that inner voice which develops a quality in the leader that refuses to compromise until the clear vision is seen and known by everyone involved. This requires consistency, accountability, and strong conviction. The leader who builds or changes culture must possess a strong conscience that tethers him or her on the heart-level to the way it ought to be.