Determination and Leadership Part 2: Purpose, Planning, and Persistence
Effective leadership requires determination—including purpose, planning, and persistence. That principle shines through in the Biblical use of the words that indicate determination. Indeed, the Greek noun, boule, refers primarily to purpose. The basic verb form, bouleuo, refers primarily to taking counsel or deliberating about something. And the middle-voice verb form boulomai refers to resolutely deciding to act on a plan, thus persisting. In the Bible, when God “determines to do something,” God’s actions always express a divine purpose, always work out God’s planning, and always persist until the purpose is achieved. Similarly, human determination involves purpose, planning, and persistence.
In order for the determination of leaders to result in true success, they must keep their purpose central to all their activity. Having a clearly written vision statement and a carefully defined mission statement that everyone associated with the organization loves to cite by heart can really help in keeping our purpose clear and in control. Leaders who lose their “Why” will certainly lead, but they will lead their organizations into mission drift as easier potential wins tempt them away from the hard work of succeeding at their central purpose. Real life means not succeeding in everything we try, and when the sledding gets rough, easier routes can attract and distract us. Leaders who allow themselves to get distracted from their purpose will eventually find that there is a big difference between leading and drifting ahead of the crowd.
Determination inherently involves planning to achieve a purpose. Using the vision and mission of an organization to control strategic planning offers crucial protection to make sure the institutional purpose gets expressed in structures and activities. Nevertheless, such mission-driven planning does not always work out. As Robert Burns, the essential Scottish poet wrote, “The best-laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.” Another old saying, “No battle plan has ever survived contact with the enemy” is relevant to any planning endeavor and has been attributed to virtually every major military leader in history! But the definitive quote comes from the 19th Century Prussian Field Marshall Helmut Von Moltke, and its full context provides significant wisdom:
The material and moral consequences of every major battle are so far-reaching that they usually bring about a completely altered situation, a new basis for the adaptation of new measures. One cannot be at all sure that any operational plan will survive the first encounter with the main body of the enemy. Only a layman could suppose that the development of a campaign represents strict application of a prior concept that has been worked out in every detail and followed through to the very end.
In any endeavor, reality will always invalidate some or all elements of any theoretical plan that organizations may adopt.
Determination does not mean resolutely sticking with plans no matter what—as Paul illustrated in 2 Corinthians 1:15-17 when he had to temporarily abandon his plans to visit the Corinthians. Rather, determination means remaining committed to our purpose even when plans fall apart and new planning must emerge on the spot and in the moment. As my old seminary speech professor William Beeners used to say, “when you have overprepared, you can wing it.” The more attention we dedicate to planning, the more prepared we will be to adapt when things fall apart. Von Moltke continued saying:
Certainly the commander in chief will keep his great objective [PURPOSE] continuously in mind, undisturbed by the vicissitudes of events. But the path on which he hopes to reach it can never be firmly established in advance. Throughout the campaign he must make a series of decisions on the basis of situations that cannot be foreseen. The successive acts of war are thus not premeditated designs, but on the contrary are spontaneous acts guided by military measures. Everything depends on penetrating the uncertainty of veiled situations to evaluate the facts, to clarify the unknown, to make decisions rapidly, and then to carry them out with strength and constancy. https://bootcampmilitaryfitnessinstitute.com/military-and-outdoor-fitness-articles/no-plan-survives-contact-with-the-enemy/
The persistence involved in determination allows leaders to carry out plans and strive to achieve their purpose “with strength and constancy.” Leaders who put their will in sync with God’s will and determine themselves to God’s purpose for their organization with planning and persistence find that God will invariably smile on their efforts. As 1 John 2:17 says, “the world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.