October 18, 2011

Hunters & Handlers

If you are in leadership you know that conflict is inevitable. This really is no secret. I knew when I took on leadership roles conflict would find me. A few years ago I thought I understood conflict because I had been in such close proximity to intense conflict.

But I did not. Not like I know it now anyway.

Don't get me wrong the past few years have been by on large great. I have seen God do many wonderful things, I have grown personally in my faith, ministry and leadership ability, and I have helped others do the same. Never the less the one major difference I have experienced lately is conflict hasn't just been around me, or something I had to help deal with, it has been centered on me.

As I reflect on this I find there are broadly speaking two types of people that disagree with you. I like to think of them as hunters and handlers.

Be Wery Wery Quite I'm Huntin'......
Hunters believe that you are in the wrong and they want you punished, perhaps severely. The reasons why things have happened in a way that they disagree with are not overly important to them, nor are your lessons learned.

Never the less it is important that you don't think of them as your enemy, because they are not. However your growth as a leader is not high on their priority list, if it makes their list at all. Their priority is to see the ministry develop in a certain way. You have in some what digressed from that way and they feel discipline is required.

Handlers also believe that you are in the wrong, and they want you corrected. This may sound like semantics to you but it is not. Handlers do have your growth and development in mind, along with the ministry. These people are interested in the reasons for what happened and the lessons that you learned because of it. In fact they would be very concerned if you couldn't produce either of those things.

While it may not feel it at the time, handlers are your friends. You need to work closely with them and address their concerns, because they will listen. They want the ministry to grow, and you to develop.

So what does this mean in the middle of a conflict?

First it would be wise for you to sort out who is who. Treating a hunter as if they were a handler can be problematic. In your attempt to be open and honest about your struggles and challenges you can open yourself up to a lot of additional criticism. While you need to address hunters concerns directly, it would be wise to make sure in doing so you don't help to load their gun.

However problematic treating a hunter like a handler can be, the reverse can be much worse. If you treat a handler like a hunter, you risk alienating yourself from the people who care about you, and what to help you. They may read your guarded responses as evidence that you don't care or have not given this conflict enough thought. Worse still if you miss read their intention to build you up as an attack you rick turning them into a very harsh hunter.

Second remember with some hard work, humility and pray handlers become great supporters. Seek out the people who want to work with you to help you and the ministries you oversee develop. I don't pretend that this is easy. But it is necessary.

Finally remember not everyone that wants to see a ministry flourish will support you. And not everyone who disagrees with you is out to get you.