We hear it with regularity:“To believe in something and not to live it is dishonest.”– Mahatma GandhiHe would say, “You've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything.”“You've got to be your own man not a puppet on a string.Never compromise what's right, and uphold your family name.You've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything . . .”– Aaron TippinBut it’s easier to talk about and sing about than to actually do. However, the ability to take a stand appropriately and firmly is a must-have skill for a leader. You have to make solid decisions and stand behind them. A leader who can gather information, ask questions from available subject matter experts, and make good decisions and stand by them without being swayed by those with other agendas will have a greater chance at ongoing success.Meeting challenges head on and making the best informed decision possible, even if it's made with less than optimal information, is always the best decision that can be made in the moment. Stand by it unless adequate new information becomes available, then of course assess and change directions if needed. When you get new information, there is no honor or wisdom in standing behind a decision when now a better one can be made.Every project has issues. There will always be a problem that comes up. The leader’s challenge is to stay the course; monitor the budget and use of resources. When you hit a rough patch, it typically requires input from additional experts, or maybe even switching out resources and personnel to get back on track. Time and money get quickly eaten up, which is why the leader has to watch and manage carefully.Leaders can be stubborn, unwavering, and ruthless. While you stand for something appropriate, wise, and right, you have to refuse ruthlessness. But do stand behind your principles, decisions, and actions. Others will offer their opinions with varying degrees of intensity. Others will want you to follow their agenda. Listen, because there can be no true communication without it. But if you know in your heart it’s not the right thing for the project, for the team, for the goals, and for you, then stand firm.Shawn Lovejoy wrote a great book titled Be Mean About the Vision: Preserving and Protecting What Matters. He wasn’t writing to give anyone permission to BE mean. There are already too many mean leaders and people in general out there. Being mean about the vision is not about being mean to people. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. In the sense that he is talking about, being “mean” is actually the best thing we could do for the people we lead! Being mean about the vision is very spiritual, wise, and godly. Being mean about the vision means standing firm; ensuring everyone understands, embraces, is inspired by, and is unified around the vision for the areas we lead.If you look up the word mean in the dictionary, you’ll see several meanings. One of them says that to be mean is “to be offensive, selfish, or unaccommodating.” That’s the definition most of us think of first; but, that is not even the most common use of the word. The other definition is “to have an intended purpose.” In this instance, the word mean has to do with intentionality. We’ll say, “I didn’t mean that,” or “I meant that as a compliment,” or “What I mean to say is . . . ” This is how we use the word most often, and this is what “being mean” is all about. Being “mean” about the vision is being intentional about the vision. It’s intentionally protecting the vision over time.Being mean about the vision is living out the vision daily in our lives, keeping our hearts focused and aligned with it. It is communicating that vision regularly with clarity and energy. Being mean is moving in a consistent direction and recognizing when the vision begins to drift. When you’re “mean” about the vision, you will also protect it at all costs. When you’re mean about the vision, you’ll intentionally, on purpose, keep the vision as the center and guide for all you are and all you do, even when people you love and respect prefer you do something else.If we’re not intentional and mean about the vision, we will drift off course. We will end up going somewhere we don’t want to go and becoming something we don’t want to become. We will slowly but surely lose the purpose for which we were created. We will lose our place and usefulness, and our church or our business will eventually die. Our histories and communications are full of witnesses to that fact. Are any of us who have a hard time standing firm because we hate conflict interested in doing that instead? I didn’t think so.God tells us that where there is no vision people “perish.” In other words, where there is no vision, no one standing firm to the calling, things and people die. Passions die. Dreams die. Energy dies. People wander off in random directions. Without the parameters of a clearly defined and communicated vision, everyone will be pulling in different directions according to personal preferences and the desires of the moment. Eventually it will be chaos, a mess, a bleak, barely recognizable imitation of what it could have been.So what does the leader do? Lovejoy instructs us:
We keep the vision white-hot in us. We keep it crystal clear in our own hearts and minds.
We filter everything we do through the vision.
We keep reflecting on why we do what we do. We stay focused on what really matters.
We refuse to be pulled by the emotions of people who don’t understand.
We say no to good things so we can say yes to the best things.
We communicate the vision consistently and passionately and clearly. We keep it fresh and creative.
We must constantly confront any signs of vision drift quickly.
We firmly but kindly deal with potential vision hijackers: people who might try to steer us away from what really matters.
We have courageous conversations.
We’re intentional about finishing what we started.
So, leader: Are you being mean and intentional about the vision? Does your personal calendar prove it? Does your church/business calendar prove it? Do your conversations prove it? Does your budget prove it?If so, you’ll experience the fruit of a vision-driven enterprise: healthy, growing, tons of impact, and many changed lives. Isn’t that what we want? Then be mean.