Becoming a growing disciple of the Lord requires that we respond to the “defining moments” placed before us on the path of life. The dictionary defines “defining moments” as: a point at which the essential nature or character of a person, group, etc., is revealed or identified. Though it is not a biblical phrase there are many “defining moments” in the Bible that reveal the character of those involved. We might say that the Bible is the ultimate Book of Defining Moments as it still determines the character that is revealed under pressure of modern-day disciples. This article discusses the nature of defining moments as related to disciples of Jesus Christ and how they might miss those defining moments based on personality types- DISC.
A SEIZED DEFINING MOMENT
On January 15, 2009 Captain Chesley Burnett “Sully” Sullenberger III had a defining moment as he crash landed his stricken U.S. Airways plane onto the surface of the Hudson River with 155 passengers all of whom survived. Captain “Sully” said that he had been preparing all of his career for that one defining moment. Characteristic of defining moments, Captain Sully had no time to reflect and consider, “Is this a defining moment?” Will you be ready for your defining moment?
UNDERSTANDING DEFINING MOMENTS
An online dialogue about defining moments with other leadership specialists revealed several issues. Perhaps some of those points of discussion will help us understand defining moments better and here are some questions:
- Is it possible to miss defining moments?
- If we can miss defining moments, is it possible to learn to recognize them at the crucial point of decision?
- Is it possible to anticipate defining moments?
- Is it possible to recapture a defining moment?
We may safely say that every person has missed a defining moment and probably more than several during their lifetime. We are not simply talking about small situations that may be “fixed” after our first reaction or poor decision but we are talking about those life-altering, life changing decisions that are rare. Like lightning strikes, they strike rarely and seldom in the same place, situation, or set of people. They are deal-makers and deal-breakers for people and organizations. They go with the saying, “You snooze, you lose.”
Missing defining moments may help us recognize defining moments as they present themselves. We do not choose defining moments, they choose us. Great leaders learn to recognize them instantly and take appropriate action. Your action or inaction will define you. They are like exams for which you receive the lectures and answers later. The problem is that some defining moments that reveal our character are costly. Those are the ones we regret and replay over and over wishing we could get the moment back.
Defining moments are often missed, as they come and go with no warning because they are often subtle. Defining moments are probably not like the CEO who calls your phone to offer a job, gets a busy signal, and then proceeds to call the next person on the list. They are moments when we may remember later that we should have done something differently.
A MISSED DEFINING MOMENT
When in high school I played on the football team. Small and thin, I was not well positioned as a lineman on offence and a linebacker on defense but that was where I was placed when I went out for the team. The next year during spring training the coach sprang something new on several of us. I found myself in a drill carrying the ball through tacklers. In the drill I was to move forward like a tailback and receive the ball from the quarterback when the ball was snapped. Then of course I was to run through the lines of the opposing tacklers. I did not give it my best effort. I was still trying to figure out what was going on. When I should have been concentrating on giving my all, I was asking myself, “Self, why am I doing this. Yea but I’m a linebacker or a guard or a tackle. What is the coach doing?” It did not take long for me to be defined as a linebacker or a guard or a tackle. It was not until later…years later, that I realized that was a defining moment that I missed. When playing football in the yard, my friends would compliment me on my balance and how difficult it was for them to tackle me. But I failed to make the connection that one day the coach tried me out for a different position. Another day like that never came and I often wonder what it might have been like to score a touchdown for the team. Notice that “yea buts” kill the opportunity presented in defining moments.
Some defining moments cost little but others are costly. So, how can you prepare? If you have a developed life-plan, passion, and purpose you have a better chance to see a defining moment when it arrives. Get a life-coach and work on your plan-passion-purpose as soon as you can.
DEFINING MOMENTS REQUIRE PRESENCE
We live in an exciting time of technology with cell phones that have texting, instant messaging, Skyping, email, music, movies, games, and voice calls at our disposal 24/7/365. The problem is that defining moments attract distractions. Further, the distractions will certainly cause you to miss a defining moment. Acting on defining moments requires you to live in the present which means that you must turn off all of the distractions. Practicing presence is a developed skill of living and being in the moment and making eye contact instead of dozing off. Nobody sleeping ever caught a defining moment wave…they always miss it!
DEFINING MOMENTS AND DISC
Many people in leadership training are familiar with DISC personality type profiles. They are not predictors or definers of one’s actions but they are remarkably accurate in many applications. Each personality type may react to defining moments differently. When it comes to missing a defining moment, each personality type tends to be predisposed to miss it in unique ways:
Dominant (D) personalities have great potential to respond quickly to a defining moment in a positive manner. However, Ds have a habit of being busy controlling situations and events. Defining moments defy control and when controlled they often evaporate. People of this personality type need to slow down and be “in the room,” in the moment,” and sensitive to their intuition that will likely provide the first indication of a defining moment.
Inspiring (I)personality types enjoy being the focus of a group as the leader or in some other role. As the leader they have great positive energy that can inspire others as a defining moment presents an opportunity. However, Is are often so self-focused that they miss defining moments. If you are of this personality type, remember that you cannot be the center of attention if you are going to seize a defining moment. If you are trying to BE the defining moment you will miss it.
Steady (S) personalities are generally laid-back people. With training, experience, or a situation that matches their abilities Ss can be good leaders. Steady personality types have a unique ability to solve conflicts when a defining moment is presented and bring harmony and mitigate conflict. However, they often miss defining moments because of their relaxed approach. If you are of this personality type, be sure to truly live in the moment and be more aware on purpose. Remember, if you snooze, you lose a defining moment.
Competent (C) personalities are somewhat scripted or programmed and can be like a computer, Mr. Spock, or Data on Star Trek. Remember the football story earlier in this article? That was me and I am a strong C. On the positive side, Cs can be strong leaders where structure and strategy is needed. Once motivated Cs are persistent and will get the job done. However, because Cs are often “stuck” in their script, they often miss defining moments. Defining moments don’t ever fit the script and are usually outside the box. If you are of this personality type, learn to be aware, don’t hold on to your script as tight, and be ready and flexible to seize a defining moment.
DEFINING MOMENTS IN THE BIBLE
The Bible is filled with defining moments and we can see what occurred when people acted in with character and leadership and we can see the consequences when they did not seize the opportunity. Here are a few examples:
- – Adam missed the defining moment in Genesis 3 to provide leadership to prevent Eve from taking of the forbidden fruit. Instead he did the opposite of leadership and watched as his soul-mate ate of the forbidden fruit to see if she would die. Defining moments have positive and negative consequences.
- + Hezekiah was informed of his imminent death and he seized the defining moment by praying to the Lord who could change the outcome. Hezekiah was given fifteen more years. (2 Kings 20:1)
- +/- David presents a mixed report regarding defining moments. In regard to his actions toward King Saul, David rarely missed a defining moment that took him higher in his leadership and influence. On the other hand there is Bathsheba. This event appears to define David’s moral character at the core. That’s also what defining moments do.
- + The Apostle Peter seemed excel at times at seeing and acting on defining moments. For instance, he was the only one of the disciples to get out of the boat to walk on water.
Explore the Bible and identify defining moments. Doing so will help you recognize and react properly to “seize the day!”
- Write several defining moments that changed your life because you saw it and acted on it properly.
- Write several defining moments that you probably missed and the consequences.
- How does your personality type affect your ability to recognize and act on defining moments?
- In the comments section, share some of your defining moment stories.
Dr. Tom Cocklereece, The Disciplist
Dr. Tom Cocklereece is CEO of RENOVA Coaching and Consulting, LLC
He is a pastor, author, professional coach, leadership specialist, and is a member Coach/Teacher/Speaker for the John Maxwell Team
A friend of mine is a successful businessman and entrepreneur who also serves as a board member of a non-profit community organization. On the board, Rob (not his real name) often offers insightful comments and good advice that matches his good business sense. Yet when asked to serve as a board officer, Rob quotes the notorious General William Tecumseh Sherman when asked if he would seek presidential office,
“If nominated I will not run; if elected I will not serve.”
To Serve or Not To Serve
Many would-be leaders have the same attitude as Sherman.
- It is extreme irony that Rob will not serve at a higher level as a leader since he is already leading in a number of roles.
- Rob will not seek a higher level of leadership because he is fearful of failure.
- He has not found the leader within…he has not discovered the quintessential leader that he could be.
Can you relate to Rob? I know I can. Even the best of leaders falter at times…me included. On a weekend vacation I was recently doing a detailed reading of John Maxwell’s leadership book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect in which he lists “Four Unpardonable Sins of a Communicator”: being unprepared, uncommitted, uninteresting, or uncomfortable.
Maxwell’s words hit me head on as I recounted my lack of leadership in one of my roles.
The greatest mistake of leadership is not a failure to succeed but a failure to lead.
In fact, the greatest failures of leadership are not a lack of experience, a lack of training, a lack of education, or lack of resources but usually a failure of one to engage.
Avoiding Leadership Failure
Four ways to avoid a failure to lead are:
- Engage as a leader.
- Engage at the right time.
- Engage with enough energy to see the project through.
- Engage other leaders around you to help and eventually take over the project.
1. ENGAGE AS A LEADER
The only way to lead is to lead! It sounds ridiculous, but it is true. Many people who are in THE prime place to lead never engage. Perhaps you understand the issues better than anyone else, you have the authority to lead, and people are looking at you and anticipating action, but you are waiting.
Perhaps you are waiting for someone else to step up to the plate. Maybe you are hoping the problem will just go away.
Other excuses may include:
- I don’t have the experience.
- I don’t have the time.
- I don’t have the education.
- I don’t think others respect me.
- I don’t want to keep someone else from their opportunity to lead.
- I’m not leadership material.
Based on the listed excuses, you will never be ready to lead. Moses used virtually every one of these excuses in Exodus 3 and 4 when talking with the Creator and God did not let him off the hook but kept handing the job to him. Moses had to engage. It was during the process and time of leadership that Moses became Moses instead of a nameless adopted son of a pharaoh in Egypt.
Only through the action of leading will the leader in you emerge.
2. ENGAGE AT THE RIGHT TIME
In baseball, the difference between swinging the bat too early, too late, and on time can be either a foul ball or a home run. It’s that way with leadership too.
As a leader you must engage at the right time.
Crisis situations require instant leadership. Other situations may allow decision and strategy time, but a large part of successful leadership is timing. Great leaders have an intuitive understanding of timing which creates the highest possible involvement of others who are empowered to assist…also called buy-in.
By engaging at the right time, they increase the number of others working on the same problem. If you are waiting for the problem to resolve itself or go away…it will probably only get worse.
3. ENGAGE WITH ENOUGH ENERGY TO SEE THE PROJECT THROUGH
Introverted leaders (S & C on the DISC profile) are often tempted to disengage too early before the full success is achieved. The reason for this is that their reserve for directing energy toward others is less.
On the other hand, extroverted leaders (D & I on the DISC profile) have a tendency to either delegate the leadership role too early or declare victory prematurely. Great leaders see the big picture of the project so they pace their energy or know how to replenish it along the way in order to complete the task. I believe the greatest leaders lead out of energy overflow instead of reserves.
The overflow principle is a Psalm 23 concept by which one does not manufacture her own energy but is continuously using overflow from God’s inexhaustible energy resources. Overflow may be defined as finding one’s fulfillment, satisfaction, worth, and esteem in Christ which results in greater energy overflow.
Show me an exhausted leader and I will show you a leader who is leading out of his own exhaustible reserves that will eventually run dry.
The greatest leaders learn to tap in to the Psalm 23 overflow to the point of directing and investing energy overflow into others on purpose to add value to them. Read Psalm 23 again while considering the Overflow Principle:
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil;My cup runs over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.
Psalms 23:1-6 (NKJV) (emphasis mine)
Note verses 3 and 5 where the Lord “restores my soul” and “my cup runs over.” These illustrate the Overflow Principle of Leadership.
4. ENGAGE OTHER LEADERS AROUND YOU TO ASSIST
Engage other leaders around you to help and eventually take over the project. A great leader intuitively scans for people in the organization who possess the abilities and willingness to assist and eventually take over a project. “Willingness” is often the only quality that separates a new leader from everyone else.
Mentoring and coaching are often the only disciplines that separate average leaders from great leaders. Great leaders mentor and coach emerging leaders. In fact this may be a distinguishing difference between managers and leaders. The difference between leaders and managers is coaching & mentoring emerging leaders.
Leaders add value to new leaders while managers often feel threatened.
Don’t miss your opportunity to be the leader you were meant to be. Find the leader within! Here is a quote from Kate Chopin’s book The Awakening:
“She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.”
It is time for you to cast aside that fictitious apparition of yourself as one who fears to lead and allow the leader within you to emerge. Do it now!
- What are your attitudes toward other leaders? If you distrust other leaders then you will not want to become a leader until you learn to trust.
- What excuses are keeping you from engaging as a leader? There are few legitimate “reasons.”
- How are you using the “Overflow Principle of Leadership” or not?
- List the leadership qualities you and others see in you that have potential.
(This article by Dr. Tom Cocklereece was originally published on Linked2Leadership May 17, 2011.)
Dr. Tom Cocklereece is CEO of RENOVA Coaching and Consulting, LLC
Author “Simple Discipleship,” contributing writer L2L Blogazine
He is a pastor, an author, professional coach, and leadership specialist
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