Ambitions 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 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 blog, 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; ambition too often outstrips execution.
You may be thinking, “What is the danger in being ambitious?” or “How can ambitions go bad?” Here is 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 uber 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?”
How do you protect your credibility and rein 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 yeses. It is hard for leaders to say no so try this positive approach instead: “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, a phone call, or 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 just to hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into your reward.”