How Do You Lead in Turbulent Times?

Three Keys to Handling Disruption in Your World

It’s no fun to have to lead in turbulent times. But if you haven’t had to do it yet, most likely you will have to do it at some point in your life. It may happen to you in your workplace where you have to navigate disruption in your company from outside—or inside—forces. It may happen to you at home if you have to deal with family transition or disintegration. No matter where you encounter it, it will likely not be fun. But it will make you reach deep within to lean on leadership abilities that you didn’t know you had.

Turbulent Times

In 1 Samuel 30, David had to reach deep within to lead in turbulent times. David and his crew came back to his home base at Ziklag, only to find that the Amalekites burned the city with fire, stole their goods, and took all their families captive. David’s men were inconsolable, and David was greatly concerned when his men talked about stoning him (1 Samuel 30:1-6a).

While you may never have to face something as dire as David did, you will likely think that you are—at least at the time. As a result, it is worth your while to know how to lead yourself and others in turbulent times. Here are three keys to remember when you are going through trials of your leadership abilities.


1. Keep yourself calm


The most important thing you can do in turbulent times is to keep yourself calm. If you can’t keep your wits about you, you won’t be able to lead yourself or others.

David kept himself calm by encouraging himself in the Lord (1 Samuel 30:6b). He recognized the problem for what it was, he changed his focus from the problem to God, and he focused on the Lord as the solution to his problem.

You may think that this is some kind of cop out. Actually it is the most rational thing a leader can do. God did not make your physical frame to bear the burden of your problems. Science has documented that many incurable physical conditions are brought on by unhealthy spiritual perspectives. Instead of feeling like you must handle all the problems of your situation, you can lead by appealing to a higher authority. You can give your problems to God.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) reminds us to

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

If you are trying to figure this out on your own, then you are leaning on your own understanding. You need to trust God by giving the problem to Him to figure out for you.


2. Develop a plan


When you are calm in turbulent times, you can develop a plan. Better said, when you have cast your cares on God, then He will give you a plan.

When David was distressed about what to do, he went to ask God what he should do. And God gave him the plan that he needed (1 Samuel 30:7-8a).

When you are truly trusting and following God, He will give you what you need when you need it—but not necessarily when you think you need it. If you admit to God that you don’t know what to do, then you will be just where He wants you—and He will come through for you.

The key is to trust Him with all your heart, don’t lean on your understanding, and acknowledge Him in all that you do (Proverbs 3:5-6). Then God will show up, as He says in Isaiah 30:19b-21 (ESV).

He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.


3. Lead your team


When God gives you a plan—or rather, as God is giving you a plan—you can lead your team in turbulent times. However, you will likely not have all the pieces in place when you start.

When David went to ask God what to do, He told him to pursue the Amalekites and that he would recover all their families and all their belongings (1 Samuel 30:8b). But that’s all God told him.

It’s important to note what David did next: he went to pursue the Amalekites (1 Samuel 30:9a); he did not ask God for more information. He took his team with him, even though he didn’t know where he was leading them. It was only after he was on his way that God gave him the next step. They revived a half-dead Egyptian man with food and water who was able to lead them to the Amalekites—and to all of their families and belongings (1 Samuel 30:9b-16).

In following God in turbulent times, you will find that you can keep yourself calm, develop a plan, and lead your team. You can keep yourself calm by not being anxious about anything (Philippians 4:6a). You can develop a plan by asking God what to do (Philippians 4:6b). And you can lead your team as God guards your heart and mind with the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).


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