Becoming a Servant Leader Through Strategic Thinking

Last week I gave a sketch of the Eisenhower Matrix, which has challenged leaders to focus on the most important things and to not allow the urgent to dominate and derail them. As a reminder, here is a sketch of the matrix:

EisenhowerMatrix

While many leaders have been served well with the thinking behind the framework, as Christians we must view the matrix through the lens of our faith.

We are servants first.

Without understanding your identity as a servant, leaders (myself included) can use the “important but not urgent” category as an excuse to isolate themselves and be unapproachable and unavailable to the teams they serve alongside.

Much of ministry to people is unplanned.

My friend Darrin Patrick has said, “The most impactful conversations happen at the most inconvenient times.” Some of the best interactions are not on the calendar. Some of the most holy moments are opportunities disguised as interruptions. Without that understanding, leaders (like myself) can loathe the urgent, and those great opportunities would be missed.

If you approach the matrix with the foundation that you are a servant and that God works in the midst of the urgent, then the matrix can be very helpful. After all, it is possible to be both a strategic leader and a servant leader. One does not need to negate the other. As you think about leading and serving your team, here are three thoughts about serving your team while simultaneously thinking more strategically about your time:

You don’t serve people well if you enable “urgent only” behavior.

There is a difference in being responsive to those you lead and enabling them to live with chaotic urgency. Some decisions and some conversations should not be “drive-by” or “drop-ins” because they won’t receive the focused time they warrant. We are serve our teams well if we help them move strategic conversations out of the urgent box.

The more conversations you move to the “important, not urgent” quadrant, the more energy you have for the “important, urgent.”

The “important, urgent” quadrant is where work gets done, where people are served in the midst of crises, and where we are able to respond to our teams. It is also the space that most overwhelms leaders. By moving some conversations to the “important, not urgent” box, leaders have more mental and emotional energy for the truly urgent.

If you don’t spend time in the “important, not urgent” quadrant, you are not serving the team well for the future

If you only live in the urgent boxes, you are not serving those you lead well. You are not developing yourself, not planning for the future of the organization, not evaluating, not prayerfully considering the development of your team. You are only thinking about today if you don’t invest time in the “important, but not urgent.”

Martin Luther said, “a Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one.” We are servants first because He first served us. But we don’t serve well if we enable unnecessary chaos.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, Eric served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric has authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.

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comment_post_ID); ?> good article. Where I would take exception in the seeming negativity to plant a church more organically/biblically through missional communities due to the slowness of growth. I think that's the problem with church planting in the US today is that speed of numerical growth has taken priority over true and authentic spiritual growth
 
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comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
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comment_post_ID); ?> This is hilarious. Well done!
 
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Planning, Strategy, and the Eisenhower Matrix

Dwight Eisenhower is noted as saying, “What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.” He is credited with the quote because of his emphasis on planning and strategy. From this quote, the Eisenhower matrix was born, which Stephen Covey later popularized. Here is my sketch of it:

EisenhowerMatrix

The matrix has four quadrants:

  1. Urgent, Important: These are things that must be handled now and include ongoing execution, important conversations, and necessary interruptions. We will spend much of our lives in this quadrant, as these are things we must do, things we are honored to do.
  2. Important, Not Urgent: This is where leaders do their strategic planning and most thoughtful and creative work. Wise leaders carve out time and energy to invest in this type of work. They plan for this time so they may plan for the future, prepare, and work closely with teams.
  3. Not Important, Not Urgent: These are unnecessary distractions that provide little or no value. Wise leaders constantly look to stop doing these things.
  4. Urgent, Not Important: These are urgent tasks that come up but can be handled by someone else or should be handled by someone else because another is more qualified or ultimately responsible for the urgent matter. In other words, it should not be of deep importance to you. These items should be delegated or outsourced.

As I have led and watched others lead, here are three thoughts for leaders:

Take time to plan work, not just do work.

Instead of thinking strategically, many leaders run chaotically in a plethora of directions. The result of not investing ample time in Quadrant I is chaos, wasted energy, and mindless execution. If you never spend time in Quadrant I, you are unable to process and learn from all the activity, and you lack the ability to plan for the future.

The unnecessary robs energy from the important.

It is really Quadrant III that steals the important energy from leaders, energy that is needed for Quadrant I and Quadrant II. As Peter Drucker stated, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” Leaders who don’t take time to evaluate what shouldn’t be done in the first place continue to waste time and energy on the unimportant.

The urgent and important can overwhelm.

Many leaders carry resentment and fatigue for the activities that fall into Quadrant II—the urgent and important that constantly comes up. But Quadrant II is significant, and much of the impact we make happens in this quadrant. In Quadrant II are unplanned conversations with people who need our counsel, unplanned crises that need our leadership, and important tasks that get the work done. So that the important and urgent don’t crush us, leaders must appropriate energy from Quadrant III and Quadrant IV.

> Read more from Eric here.

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| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, Eric served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric has authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> good article. Where I would take exception in the seeming negativity to plant a church more organically/biblically through missional communities due to the slowness of growth. I think that's the problem with church planting in the US today is that speed of numerical growth has taken priority over true and authentic spiritual growth
 
— evansavage1
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
— Mike
 
comment_post_ID); ?> This is hilarious. Well done!
 
— RussellC
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.