With recent economic events, cultural shifts and ministry adjustments our disability leaders are under greater pressure than ever as they navigate their organizations and programs through this treacherous era. These challenging moments are consuming some, scaring others and isolating a community further. Living with disability has taught me many things about life, about family and has crafted my leadership immeasurably. Additionally, this wheelchair I sit has enhanced my learning about pressure, its effect upon us, the dangers pressure can have, and the benefits it can bring. Here are a few of my lessons.

The first lesson is to be familiar with your pressure points and the underlying causes for the pressure. I have a couple friends that have battled with chronic pressure sores. Occasionally, they have to be evaluated through a process called “pressure mapping.” This exercise tells them where their chair seating supports them and where the source of stress in coming from. The bottom line, pardon the pun, if you don’t identify the source of your irritation, your conflicts will create deep and lasting wounds. Unfamiliar pressure can lead to huge gaps in leadership and result in unnecessary scaring. 

Additionally, pressure reveals our need for support and identifies where you are supported. A fundamental lesson of disability is that one cannot be successful on one’s own. God did not design us to stand without having others to bear our burdens. Pressure will teach one how to depend on others and upon whom it is safe to rest your load. Idea: if you are experiencing a heavy weight, invite 2-3 trust confidants to coffee and share with them your pressure and let them assist you in letting off the steam.

Finally, understand the benefits of pressure. During a recent small surgical procedure, I noticed that the surgical team periodically put pressure on my the site they were working on. In the procedure the pressure had two primarily purposes. One it minimized the bleeding and, secondly, it minimized the scaring. Every leadership pressure will have a positive opposite. It may creatively redesign of your goals, staff or expectations; it may be that it will expose your strengths or weaknesses; or it may be that it will cause you to become extremely focused. The real benefit comes in the testing of one’s skin, sort of speak, that pressure brings.

Regardless of which outcome becomes revealed in the process of leadership, assessing your points of pressure is vital to achieving long-term leadership success.

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