Dr. John E. Johnson

Dr. John E. Johnson
Blog, Leadership

Looking at Leadership from a Divine Lens—Gaining a Vision

Perhaps you read this recent WSJ article, “Some Travelers Miss Flying So Much, They’re Taking Planes to Nowhere.” After months of being cooped up, some people are breaking out and taking flights to destinations they cannot land and depart, spending a few hours in the sky only to circle immediately back home. 

We are, as Buchanan notes in his newest book, God Walk, more migratory than sedentary. This is especially true of leaders. Leaders, by nature, are driven to look out at the horizon and wonder what’s on the other side. They take long walks to sort this out. Theologians like Francis Schaeffer and J.I. Packer are examples of many others who have entered the quiet to sharpen their sense of things to come.  

A vision begins with reflection, a sustained time with God. Looking backward and looking at patterns. As visionary leaders like Churchill teach us, the further one looks back, the further one sees ahead. Visionaries dream out into the future, hoping to see around the next corner of history. Hoping to lead people into a new and flourishing chapter.  

Most of all, a vision requires a careful look at one’s present. What is disturbing my soul? What is it that must change? What is God so impressing upon me to do that I will have no peace until it is done? To miss the present frequently leads to a skewed perception of what could be. 

Little wonder the road is a dominant metaphor in Scripture. It explains why the early church was known as “the Way.” We are sojourners who are part of a movement. Leaders who are conscious of this realize they cannot be motionless. The status quo is not an option. We who are willing to lead have signed up to splash cold water on people’s complacency.  

In the end, a leader waits on God and realizes he alone knows the future. Our ways are often not his ways. As Thomas Oden put it, “We must plan always with a wry smile, a wink at contingencies, a sense of all our plans as penultimate. We must make forecasts, anticipate conditions, make projections; but these are best done with a chastened awareness that we cannot control the future and may have to go to plan B.”

(this and future posts are working excerpts from my upcoming book, Reframing Leadership: A Theological Evaluation of Contemporary Leadership Models)


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