The Tough Questions

Leadership Lesson from an Unusual Source


This is the time of year when many of us as leaders are “asking the tough questions” about our organizations. It is the time of year when we seek to evaluate and assess how our organization has performed and whether or not we have accomplished our goals in this last year.

I live in two worlds. One is a for-profit entity within the corporate world. That industry has been impacted significantly by the economic downturn and some economic policies that many folks would argue are hurtful and damaging to our opportunities to succeed. These economic times have caused us to reexamine our performance and how we go about our daily business. We have always prided ourselves in being an incredibly efficient organization. Much more so than our competitors. Well, these economic conditions have provided the opportunity to prove that theory. We know how to and we ask tough questions on a daily basis.

My other life is within the non-profit world. I spend as much, if not more energy, working in that world. It is painfully obvious that this world does not know how to ask these kinds of questions. Oh, we give “lip service” to asking them. But we really don’t.

Perhaps that is because these organizations are non-profit and ministry organizations. So, we feel that asking that kind of question would be too business-like, mean, or “un-Christian.” And when we do ask questions, they are usually not the right questions. And they certainly aren’t tough questions. They are usually softball questions or questions that don’t really offer any hope of getting to any root causes or issues.

The Unusual Source

In the more than four years since I started, for the first time I am going to include a link to a video that I find instructive when it comes to the art and necessity of asking tough questions. But be warned, the context of the video is political. The context is the U.S. House of Representatives investigation into the events that occurred in Benghazi on September 11 and 12, 2012. The speaker at the podium is Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina. He was appointed Chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi.

I invite you to pause your reading of this article to click the following YouTube link and see this 3-minute video if you are not already familiar with it.

OK, are you back now? I warned you that it was a politically charged video. But, it was also very pointed and full of tough questions that the American people should have answers to and that the press should be seeking on our behalf. I do not endorse any political person or party here. I just felt that it would be beneficial to see tough questions in action.

The Tough Questions

So, now take that video and place it in the context of the non-profit and ministry world. You can’t imagine that? Well, let me help you. When I imagine it, I imagine that it would look like this:

  1. Do we know why our church attendance is declining when churches elsewhere in the world like China and North Korea and other similar areas are exploding with growth?
  2. Can we explain how these churches are growing without praise bands, sound systems, theater lighting, video projection and fog machines?
  3. Are all of these assets (buildings, staff, and programs) providing a greater return than one passionate leader under a mango tree?

These are the kinds of tough questions that we need to be asking ourselves as leaders in these kinds of organizations. Unfortunately, we are asking questions like which sermon series that I have obtained from the internet should I schedule for the next 6 weeks? Or, how can we raise more money for new microphones?

Perhaps the toughest questions of all are the ones that we need to be asking ourselves.

  1. Am I the right person for this leadership role?
  2. Am I in the right place?
  3. Do I have the skills necessary to lead the organization at this time?
  4. Do I have folks in my life that can speak real truth into my life and get me to see the situation clearly and objectively?

These are indeed tough questions. And, I will confess that I am not comfortable with all of this. I am not as adept at asking questions as I would like to be. And I am certainly am not comfortable when these kinds of questions are asked of me. But, leadership is not about comfort. It is about leading. And if not about leading, then it is about following. And if it is not about following, then it is ultimately about getting out of the way!

And that may be the hardest thing of all to do!

Perhaps you don’t yet have a person in your life to ask these tough questions. I have a few remaining spaces for coaching clients in the first few months of 2017 and I would love to be the friend that can ask you these hard, but important questions.  

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I am the husband of a beautiful and wonderful woman. I am the father of two of the greatest kids on the planet. I am a father-in-law to a great young woman. And I am Papa to three very special grandchildren. In my spare time I am an active blogger and writer. And if there is any time left over, I work with small non-profit organizations and churches on the topics of change management, crisis intervention and leadership development.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.