Powering on when the power falters

An unusually early snow storm took down trees and power lines across the mid-Atlantic region this past weekend, leaving several million households without electricity. The Basinger home was included in that number. For what seemed an eternity (actually just three days) we got by with a portable generator, our gas fireplace, and a couple of flashlights.

Compared to the world’s great tragedies, my brief stint without electricity isn’t much of a story. But it was enough to throw me off my game, even though I knew the power would be restored within a matter of days.

My psychic discomfort of this past weekend is a metaphor for what I’ve noticed within ministry organizations where there’s been a power disruption of some sort.  The reasons for the outages are varied, from disappearing funding, to diminished vision, to the unplanned for departure of a strong leader. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Yet the ways in which organizational leaders respond to power problems are remarkably similar. As with homeowners waiting for the lights to come back on, there’s a lot of fussing around, hand-wringing, and finger-pointing. Everyone wants everything back to normal ASAP.

However, in the world of organizational leadership, such is seldom the case. The longer we put off dealing with a power loss, waiting for someone or something to ride to our rescue, the less normal becomes the situation.


Did you notice my use of the word we? I’m wearing my board member hat as I write,  so this post is as much for me as for everyone else.

Those of us who’ve been called to a leadership role must understand that we hold the power to put things to rights.  Quoting management guru Jim Collins, “the path out of darkness begins with those exasperatingly persistent individuals who are constitutionally incapable of capitulation.” In other words, it’s up to we to power on when the power falters.

So the next time your organization experiences a power loss, remember this. Repairing the lines, pulling the switch, or developing alternative energy sources is up to the leadership team — the board, the CEO, the senior staff. To expect anything else is like waiting for Godot.

What steps are you taking today to prepare your organization for the possibility of a power loss tomorrow? What tips do you have for recruiting  “exasperatingly persistent individuals” to the boards of faith-based nonprofits?

What's your take on this topic?

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