Leading from Inside the Tornado

April 27, 2018

Leading from Inside the Tornado

I am fascinated by tornados. They are incredible forces of nature. Though they elicit awe, they are a force to be respected. The sheer destructive power they possess can level entire communities in minutes.

For years researchers have chased them in an attempt to better understand them. What causes them? Can we predict them with any regularity or efficiency? How can we improve early warning systems and protect people from this deadly force?

I recently came across an article that talked about the eye of a tornado. Though much of the article was theoretical concerning what actually exists in the centre of a tornado, it recounted a number of eyewitness accounts of people who found themselves in the eye of the storm.

As I read, it got me thinking about tornados and what they can teach us about leadership. As odd as it sounds, I was taken by what the article said about the inside of a tornado. Few can boast of such an experience, but of the ones that have, some common stories emerge. From those, I've gleaned a number of truths about leadership and being caught in the proverbial eye of the storm.

It has the best vantage point

From the eye of the tornado there is supposed calm. If you were outside, your greatest priority would be to get out of the way. You would witness the devastation and be reacting just to survive. That is a dangerous place for a leader. Reacting to a storm just to stay alive.

I read that it's not the low pressure that explodes buildings, but flying debris that is the major cause of damage from a tornado. It's pretty difficult to lead effectively when your too busy dodging debris. But from the centre you can calmly survey what is going on.

You can even gage the direction of the storm and see where its destructive path is heading. From eyewitness accounts, there are smaller tornados generated within the larger one. From this vantage point, a leader can see the overall picture and assess the weight and power of the storm and the smaller ones it creates.

It gives you the best seat for clarity

Clarity is a leader's ally. You may not be able to control the storm but having clarity in the midst of it is invaluable for assessing and correcting. We often miss the greatest lessons God has for us because we were too busy battling the storm instead of gaining clarity through it.

Of those who have been in the eye, they tell of constant flashes of lightning that illuminates the inside. They were able to see clearly what was happening all around them. Likewise for a leader; the ability to clearly see the storm that is swirling around them is an invaluable gift of clarity.

It forces you to look up

One of the more intriguing observations from the accounts is the view looking up. Some talked of a lighted sky that showed the reality beyond the present storm. As church leaders we are never beyond the power of prayer and the hand of God. No matter the darkness around us, a light is always available.

Unfortunately for many of us, our dependency on God is often greater in times of trouble. If there is one thing that can be said for swirling walls of clouds all around us is that it forces us to look up! Those moments make us long for hope beyond our present circumstances and we have no greater hope than that of Christ.

When a storm is brewing, people are watching

Its interesting what attracts a crowd. As the storm swirls you've attracted an audience. One that is watching to see whether or not you will survive?

It is in those moments when your real character spills out. Do you rail against the storm or do you weather it with your integrity intact? Have you demonstrated a courage and a faith that carries you through the storm or do you yield at the first gust of wind?

Nothing conveys to others the strength of your faith and your dependency on God more than being caught in the eye of a storm? What is equally true is how it affects those who are watching.

Remember, this too will pass

As quickly as a tornado comes, it's gone just as fast. What is striking from the accounts is what was one moment darkness, havoc, and destruction suddenly turns to daylight and sunshine.

Every church leader has experienced seasons of conflict and chaos. It can feel like a proverbial tornado has touched down right in the centre of your life and your first instinct is to run and hide. For others, the response may be to fight. But what chance do you have against a tornado?

Based on what I read, maybe the best place when a tornado hits is to be right in the middle of it. From my experience, our best lessons come from being steady, and trusting God in the eye of the storm.

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.
2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. 3 Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! 4 A river brings joy to the city of our God, the sacred home of the Most High. 5 God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed. From the very break of day, God will protect it.
(Ps. 46:1-5 NLT)

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