We have been created and designed to make choices. We usually understand this to mean to have the ability to make decisions regarding actions, but actions are the results of our thought choices. Leadership choices are not so much about actions and results; rather, they are the choices about thoughts and the interpretation of our destiny and purpose. We also exercise choices when it comes to the interpretation of our past experiences and the stories we have picked up along the way.
Given the fact that we delete, distort, or generalize most of the information to which we are exposed, we are by definition making choices as to how we construct our views and opinions. We have to make a choice about which view will give us the best chance of creating the future we desire. Here are some questions to wrestle with:
How do I interpret the past? What events and experiences do I allow to limit my future impact? Is there an interpretation that will serve me better? Am I conveniently deleting, distorting, or generalizing what I “know” about past experiences and events to the point that I have become the victim or the prisoner of the past? Is being a “victim” convenient for me—because as a victim of my past, I am no longer responsible and, therefore, no longer accountable? How would my past look if I were to walk through that past holding the hands of Jesus and listening to what He is saying as we observe and absorb what we see? What would He be saying to me? Am I hearing it? It is precisely because Jesus never allowed Himself to become a victim that He was able to become the Savior of the world. He did not even allow His life to be taken: He gave His life; it was His choice. Is there something that needs reinterpreting from your past so you can become a better leader today?
How do I interpret the present? What do I see or think that I see? If my interpretation of the present is only filtering in the negative views and perceptions and filtering out the many positive things that surround me, I am limiting my leadership impact. Instead of being a leader, I will become a toxic influence. I have a choice as to how I interpret the present, and that choice will open some doors and close others. If I choose to filter in positive experiences, if I see the world through the lens of opportunity and possibility, I will be opening the doors to specific outcomes (and, consequently, closing the doors to opposite options). So, if we want “success,” our choice is not to be successful but to orient our views and thoughts to that which will produce the results we want. To use a gardening analogy, we are not in control of the fruit that grows, and we cannot make it grow, but we do have a choice about whether we believe the fruit will emerge, whether we prepare the soil, whether we plant the correct seed and look after it by watering it and providing an environment where the fruit will have the best chance of flourishing. Even in the spiritual realm, the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, patience, peace, etc.) is the result of our relationship with God and our focus on Him, rather than the focus on the “fruit” itself.
How do I interpret the future? What kind of future do I see ahead? As a leader, am I convinced that the best years are ahead of or behind me? Do I see more opportunities or obstacles ahead? If I am influenced more by news headlines and conspiracy theories, complemented by office politics and distrust, the future looks bleak. Nevertheless, if I interpret the future as an unprecedented opportunity to make a difference and serve others, if I choose to believe that the future will be better than the present, then my leadership will grow exponentially and my influence will be infinitely more positive.
What I choose to believe about the past and the present and what I allow my view of the future to be will definitely color the kind of leader I am. The great news is this: I have a choice, and if I choose wisely, my leadership legacy will impact and serve many.
Branimir Schubert is the director of mission and culture at Adventist HealthCare Limited, which includes the Sydney Adventist Hospital.