The first is discernment! Problematic situations are often more complex than they seem on the surface. Take a church conflict, for instance, or a dysfunctional staff - there are usually multiple dynamics that play into the situation and acting too quickly and without understanding the full picture can cause additional problems.
Discernment is the process of seeking to understand what is actually happening, who is involved and why there are issues. Getting to discernment is often a matter of thinking, talking to the right people, and taking the time to ensure that we have adequate undertanding.
Discernment is critical but so is the wisdom to know how to address the issue at hand. Understanding one's problem is only part of the puzzle. Knowing what to do about it, and when and how is another. This is about process. One can make the right decision but cause additional problems through a poor process.
Wisdom asks questions like: "How do I address the issues at hand in a way that is not going to cause additional problems?" "If I take this action what are the potential ramifications or unintended consequences?" "Am I prepared to deal with those consequences?" "Is this the right time to address the problem?" "If the issues become public do I know my response?" Wisdom is all about knowing how to do what we need to do and be smart in the process.
This often requires courage! It is one thing to understand what needs to happen and it is another to have the courage to do what needs to be done, knowing that there are risks involved. Many leaders live with unresolved issues in their organization precisely because they do not have the courage to deal with them. Unfortunately this usually complicates the situation.
The fourth component is favor with those involved. Actions we take, if not supported by those around us, including staff are problematic. But if people believe that we have run due process, have acted in fairness and integrity and with grace, we gain the favor we need to do what is necessary. Favor is also generated by enough relationship that trust can be granted.
So here are the four questions we ought to ask ourselves when dealing with problematic situations:
- Have I discerned the situation clearly?
- Am I addressing the situation with wisdom?
- Do I have the courage to act?
- Do I have the favor of those who will become aware of my actions and if explained will they see my actions as necessary and reasonable.
Of course, praying for all four of these is what wise leaders do. They practice all four and they pray for all four.