In American Football, each team actually comprises three teams. There is a team for offence, defence and a specials team.  As indicated in their names, one team is for plays where the team is on offence, advancing towards the goal.  One for defence – when the team is protecting ground that they have made against an advancing team.  And one for special moments, when the team has to think outside normal play.  

 In leadership, each of these teams are representative of our leadership mindsets. We have a mindset that enables us to pursue our goals, one that protects the gains we have made towards our goals and a mindset that we use to think outside the box to either protect or advance when things are not going as we would expect. 

 Each team has different strengths and while many players could play on any of the teams, to operate in an optimum space it is important to have the right team on the field at the right time.  While you could have the defence team on the field when you have the ball and are advancing towards the goal, it is not going to be as effective as having the offence team on at that time.

 At times in my leadership journey I have found myself trying to advance towards a goal with the defence mindset. Usually it is when I find myself with a full calendar and not much time for thinking. A problem arises on the journey and I try to solve it with the defence mindset.  

Trying to mitigate the current risk and, in the process, ‘fix’ it with a short sighted vision. I focus on the current symptoms rather than the cause.  This rarely solves the long term problem and almost always means I need to address the issue again and again – until eventually I play the long game and step into my leadership role fully – where I really lead, and do not just troubleshoot problems.

In our lives there will always be problems that require solving.  Whether as a father, a leader, a minister or a coach, issues can be repaired through defensive thinking but rarely, in my experience, will this generate a long term solution.  No matter how complex the situation there is always more than one way to approach an issue. Take time to think and pray.  Asking God what is the best way to front foot the situation, seeking to not just mitigate risk, to not just solve the current issue, but to move forward, making yards in spite of what is at hand.

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By Shaun Brooker

About the author

Shaun Brooker is the Principal of Hamilton Christian School – he is a speaker and author on Leadership, Education and Technology. For more information visit www.christianeducation.org.nz.

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