The Grind of Leadership

Rich Wilkerson Jr.

October 7, 2021
5 min read

A lot has been said about having a vision for your leadership. What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to see happen? What are your dreams, desires, and goals? Having a vision is essential, but it is certainly not all there is to leadership. Why? Because great outcomes don’t happen overnight, they happen over time. It’s one thing to have a vision, it’s something else altogether to see that vision come to fruition. If you are ever going to get to your imagined future, you are going to have to stay committed to the daily grind of leadership.

We hear that term a lot, don’t we? The grind. What are we talking about? We’re talking about work that is laborious, routine, or mundane. The day-to-day work. The repeated work. The just-keep-showing-up work. The not-so-exciting work. Leadership is a grind. It’s not all fun and games. (I doubt you thought it was.) Leadership is hard work—serving, giving, delivering, helping. So much of it is unheard, unseen, and unthanked. Which is why it is going to require some real commitment if you are going to stay in it for the long haul. You have to get committed to the grind of leadership. Because your stewardship of the mundane moments will be the catalyst for the memorable moments in your life. That’s where the magic happens—right where you least expect it.

If you are going to stay committed to the grind of leadership, I believe there are three things you are going to have to do. Here are three key components of enduring the grind and gaining ground in your leadership.

1. RENAME THE GRIND

I’m a big believer in the significance of a name. What you call something reveals your relationship to that thing. Names bring identity. When VOUS found our first workspace, I got up in front of our staff one day and made an announcement: This is not an office, this is our headquarters. Why? Because nobody ever changed the world with an office. No, headquarters has a much better ring to it. What we call where we work matters. It speaks to the identity of that space for us. Names bring identity, and identity brings purpose.

That’s why, early in our journey, we named the days of our week. What we call our days reminds us of what we intend to do with those days. So we don’t just walk through the workweek, doing whatever comes up on any given day. No, we have Meeting Monday, Tackle Tuesday, Wrap-up Wednesday, Think-a-lot Thursday, Free Friday, Semi-slow Saturday, and Slam Sunday. We know exactly what we intend to do with each day of the week. Yeah, it’s a daily grind. But each day has a name, so each day has an identity and a purpose.

Are you in a season you don’t like very much? If you’re feeling discouraged in your current situation, let me remind you that everything you’re facing in your current season is part of the plan for what you’re going to need in the next season. Nothing is wasted. God will use everything for your good if you trust and obey. Maybe what you need to do is simply to rename the season you’re in. It’s not a waste, it’s preparation. It’s not boring, it’s research and development. You’re not tired, you’re training. You’re not stressed, you’re being stretched. It’s not too hard, you’re just getting stronger. Resist the urge to give in and give up. Rename your season and remind yourself of its purpose. God will use it, but he won’t multiply what you fail to maximize. Stop wishing it away. Lean in and watch God show up.

2. REFRAME THE GRIND

But renaming the grind is not enough. You have to reframe the grind. Why? Because if you don’t see it differently, you will get tired of saying it differently. If you don’t shift your perspective on it, you will get weary and call it how you feel it. You know what I have come to realize? We don’t see things the way they are, we see them the way we are. Our perspective is not the result of what’s in front of us, it’s the result of what’s inside of us. So if we want to change our situation, we are going to have to begin by reframing it. So often in life, we have a poisoned perspective that prevents us from progress. If I’m broken, everything I see will be broken. If I’m toxic, everything I see will be toxic.

The healthiest mindset a leader can take on is a mindset of gratitude. Things you appreciate tend to get better; things you depreciate tend to get worse. But there are some powerful enemies to gratitude. One of the greatest enemies of gratitude is comparison. Comparison is a contentment killer. And, in our current culture, comparison is easy to come by and difficult to avoid. Do you want to stop living out your calling? All you have to do is start trying to live out someone else’s. I didn’t know how unhappy I was until I found out how happy you are. Comparison is a liar and it robs us of gratitude. It poisons our perspective and derails our purpose. So let’s kill the comparison. The grass is not greener on the other side, the grass is greener where you water it.

Another powerful enemy of gratitude is perfectionism. As leaders, we don’t just want to be good, we want to be the best. And in our struggle to the top, we lose the beauty of where we are right now. We live our lives saying it should have been better. But what if we reframed it? It could have been worse. Too many of us live our lives with Silver Medal Syndrome. Studies have shown that bronze medalists are happier than silver medalists. Why? Because silver medalists walk around saying, I was so close! I almost won the gold! Bronze medalists, on the other hand, walk around saying, I was so close! I almost missed the podium altogether! We have to reframe the grind! You might not be exactly where you want to be in life, but you are growing, progressing, and getting better. Little by little, we have traveled far.

3. REMAIN IN THE GRIND

We have to rename the grind, reframe the grind and, lastly and most importantly, we have to remain in the grind. What you’re doing matters. Your leadership matters. What good is it to gain ground if you don’t know how to stand your ground? What’s the good in one step forward, two steps back? I can’t tell you what direction to take. But I can tell you what posture to take—to stand. In Ephesians 6:13-14, the apostle Paul encourages the church in Ephesus, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then....” Not every season is about conquering. Some seasons are simply about enduring. You need to stay committed to remaining in the grind, no matter what. Criticism will come. Obstacles will come. Problems will arise. Will you stay in the grind? Will you refuse to back down, give in, or quit?

From time to time when I was a kid, my dad would wake my brothers and me up early on a Saturday morning. When we got in the car we would ask, “Dad, where are we going?” “We’re going door to door witnessing,” he would say. “I don’t even know if Jesus is awake right now, dad.” But dad wasn’t fazed. He was drinking Red Bull before there was Red Bull. “What are you doing, dad?” “I’m looking for a house, son.” Let me tell you, you have not lived until you have knocked on someone’s door at 7:00am on a Saturday to talk about their eternal destiny. It was terrifying and invigorating, all at the same time. As we began, I would approach the houses fearfully, knock quietly, and share the Gospel apologetically. But somewhere between the third and fourth houses, I caught a revelation: I’m not dead. I’ve had doors slammed in my face and heard more than a few unkind words, but I’m still here. I survived. When it came time to hit that fourth house, I was ready. “Dad, stay in the car…I got this one.”

What’s the point? In your leadership, you will face challenges, you will have disappointments, and you will fail. But the only time you truly fail is the last time you try. I can offer you no greater encouragement here than Proverbs 24:16, “for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again....” Even when you face rejection, even when you face failure, will you make a decision to remain in the grind? Because when you rename it, reframe it, and remain in it, you will develop the very thing you need: resilience. And it is resilience that will get you through the grind of leadership. It’s always too soon to quit. You are needed, you are valuable, and the best is still yet to come.

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