There are moments in our life and leadership journey when the stakes are really high—the heat turns up, the inevitable waiting season starts, the personal crisis hits, or it’s time to begin a transition. These moments don’t happen often (or at least they shouldn’t)—but when they do, we aren’t ready. Why? Because no one practices these moments. It would be super weird if they did! Life’s toughest challenges cannot be foreseen, rehearsed, or prepared for, even though they happen to all of us.
Often, the young leaders in your ministry or organization have not walked through many of these high-stake leadership moments yet; they may be inexperienced in how to deal with these crises. We must train the young leaders in our ministries and organizations to handle a crisis well in order to fully prepare them for the realities of leadership.
When crisis comes, are the young leaders on our teams resilient enough to make it through?
The question is this: when crisis comes, are the young leaders on our teams resilient enough to make it through? Resilience is the ability to bend and not break—to last through the difficulties. It would be silly to think that we can specifically prepare for our life’s most difficult moments, but I believe you can build the resilience of every young leader on your team by teaching them to implement these five daily habits.
1. Take the Stairs
“In case of an emergency you must take the stairs”… and yet we wouldn’t know where to find them because we always take the elevator. Young leaders are obsessed with shortcuts, fast passes, and express lanes. When there is no fire, the fast, easy, and convenient way just makes the most sense. The truth is, shortcuts always cut your growth short, so encourage your young leaders to go the long way now. Learn through the slow things. Practice slowing. So when life hits and the only way is a slow way, they know where the stairs are. Young leaders can build the muscle of slow, of process, of delayed gratification. So next time they get the choice—elevator or stairs, take the route that won’t stunt their growth.
2. Do the Hard Thing First
When we avoid the hard tasks in life, they usually snowball into tragic mistakes. Train your young leaders to take care of the things they really want to avoid first, always. Tomorrow when they show up, encourage them to do the thing you have been avoiding. Call the doctor. Follow through on that project. Finish the item they put last on their to-do list. They will stop robbing themselves of the freedom that lives on the other side of getting that annoying thing finished. When they make this their habit, they don’t shrink back when things get hard. This habit causes them to face the hard things head-on in life.
3. Don’t Avoid the Sad Things
We hate negative feelings. We skip the sad songs (or we listen to them too much and we should stop that too), avoid the sad stories, and quickly distract ourselves when any sort of pain comes our way. This is a completely natural response to the painful things in life—remember the hand on the stove illustration as a kid? We avoid sad and painful things for obvious reasons—it’s a defense mechanism. The unfortunate news is that sad and painful things are inevitable in our real lives—you cannot foresee the sudden loss of a job or the tragic diagnosis of a loved one, but you can learn how to navigate negative and painful feelings. Teach your young leaders how to sit in their sadness for a little, embrace the pain of a loved one, and actually feel. Practicing how to feel sad and recover when the stakes are low makes for a much healthier grieving process when the stakes are high.
4. Pick the Longest Line
Instead of looking for the shortest line at the grocery store, challenge your young leaders to pick the longest. Instead of choosing the call-back option, wait on hold. Why? Because building the muscle of patience and perseverance in the grocery line is the same muscle you’ll need one day when the inevitable waiting season comes. Have you ever been to a theme park? The first line you wait in is always the hardest. By the end of the night, the same long lines that you waited in all day didn’t get any shorter; you just learned how to wait gracefully. There’s no avoiding the waiting seasons, but we can train our young leaders to use the everyday moments of waiting to practice how they will respond to the waiting in the future.
5. Stay (a Little) Longer Than You Want To
The power of being able to stay, to commit, to push through uncomfortable things, is a power most people have lost the art of. The myth of moving or leaving says the grass is greener, new is better, and more will satisfy—but it mostly falls short. Staying is a superpower; its fruit is maturity, experience, trust, and strength. What’s the practice? The next time your young leaders want to scoot out or tear down a bit early—challenge them to stay 30 more minutes. Next time they want to get out of that conversation, encourage them to find a couch and plant themselves and listen to their entire story. The moment they want to leave work because they are “so over today,” ask them to wait one more hour. Consistency and longevity are built in the small, everyday moments of our lives.
These daily decisions form muscles that often go unseen until the unexpected happens.
I can assure you that none of these habits will feel good or make your day easier. The fruits of these commitments are found in the unexpected moments of our lives. These daily decisions form muscles that often go unseen until the unexpected happens. It’s been said that our lives are shaped by our daily decisions and choosing these things will make our young leaders resilient ones—leaders that have practiced the hard things when the stakes are low, so when the stakes are high, they bend, but do not break.