A Note from Kelly King: Today’s article by Becky Badry is a true reflection of where my leadership often goes—lots of ambition, lots of vision, but not enough time for execution. This article needs to be plastered on my computer screen as a reminder of how to manage my ambition and expectations. I know it will hit home for a lot of leaders today.
Ambitions. They keep you going, but they can go bad. Several years ago I was skimming the newspaper when my eyes caught a headline: “Ambition Too Often Outstrips Execution.” I have to be honest and say I did not read any further, and I failed to get the author’s name because the title hit me between the eyes. In fact, I stopped immediately, grabbed the closest pair of scissors and cut out the headline. I taped it to my desk, just over my laptop. As I am writing this article, I am looking at the slightly faded and brittle news clipping that has more than once saved my credibility.
As a visionary leader I am constantly dreaming of what’s next and if only. I love to read books on leadership, planning, strategy, visioning, etc. Please hear me. I do not discount the benefit such reading material has had in my life. However, (you knew the however was coming, didn’t you?) I must constantly keep my mind and desires for greater things in check for it is true that ambition too often outstrips execution.
You may be thinking, “What is the danger in being ambitious, and how can ambitions go bad?” Here’s another anonymous quote: “When your visibility exceeds your ability, it destroys your credibility.” Perhaps you have heard of this business phrase used in sales: “Never over-promise and under-deliver; it is better to under-promise and over-deliver.”
In ministry we might say we will meet with a woman in need, but we know our schedule is full and more than likely it won’t happen. We might, with good intentions, promise to fulfill our responsibilities on the ministry team and fall short of the expectation or deadline. In case you may be thinking this a new temptation facing 21st century leaders, hear the words of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians: “Now when I planned this, was I of two minds? Or what I plan, do I plan in a purely human way so that I say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time?” (2 Corinthians 1:17).
How do you protect your credibility and reign in your ambitions?
- Be realistic about your time and energy. Time and energy are finite; when we try to live as though they are not, it is unwise. Are your expectations of your ministry realistic?
- Manage your “Yes.” It is hard for leaders to say no. So, try this positive approach and say, “I am sorry, but I can’t say yes to that right now.”
- Delegate. If you can’t do it, find someone who can. Do you have a list of faithful, trustworthy team members who can fill the gaps and keep things from falling through the cracks? Delegate.
- Be sincere. When you know you won’t have time to respond to a need, phone call, or return an email, don’t make excuses; be honest. Just tell them you can’t do it.
Dave Harvey, author of Rescuing Ambition, writes, “God’s agenda is to shape us by engaging our ambition.” My greatest ambition is to hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into your reward.”
Becky Badry lives in Southern California and is the Executive Assistant to the President of Gateway Seminary. She formerly served as Director of Women’s Resources and Missions Mobilization for the Colorado Baptist Convention. Becky is a minister’s wife, women’s ministry leader, speaker, LifeWay Ministry Multiplier, and a contributing author to Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level. After completing her Women’s Ministry Certification at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and graduating from Golden Gate Theological Seminary with a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership in 2012, she received the Educational Leadership Service in Ministry Award. Becky is the founder and director of Women in Leadership Coaching. She has a passion to encourage women’s ministry leaders and ministers’ wives to faithfully fulfill God’s call in life. Jay and Becky have two adult sons, Jeremy and Justin, a wonderful daughter-in-law, Rochelle, and two granddaughters.