The Problem With Zigzag Leadership

For years I believed a common myth about alligators. According to this popular misconception, alligators are so fast that they can outrun humans. So the only hope for someone chased by an alligator is to outsmart it by running in a zigzag.

       Although this all turns out to be hooey when it comes to alligators, I still love the premise: It’s hard to follow something that is zigzagging.

What a terrific leadership principle! The apostle Paul told the Corinthians, “Our word to you was not Yes and No”  (2 Corinthians 1:18). In contrast, many of our politicians and church leaders today struggle to give a straight answer on anything. They start with one line of reasoning, only to contradict it a few minutes or few days later. Just as an alligator has difficulty following a zigzagging human, it’s really hard to follow that kind of leadership.

Paul warned, “If the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?”  (1 Corinthians 14:8) Vacillating leaders constantly waver in their message, never sticking to the same story. Their strategies and vision are always changing. Their moral values “evolve.” And none of this is any wonder, since their viewpoints are swayed by fads and opinion polls instead of being grounded in timeless truth.

Good leaders, in contrast, know what they believe and where they are going. Rather than being blown about by every cultural whim, they’re anchored to core values that they consistently apply, year after year.

Instead of being a zigzagger, Paul described himself as running a race, not hesitantly or aimlessly, but moving forward with clear direction toward the prize of God’s high calling (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Philippians 3:12-14).

One of the traits that made Paul an outstanding leader was his clear and unequivocal message. You never had to speculate about what he truly believed. Nor did his message change from day to day according to the latest Gallup poll.

People today are tired of wishy-washy, double-minded leaders. We live in perilous times (2 Timothy 3:1), and it’s more important than ever to be like the sons of Issachar—able to understand the times and communicate a clear vision of what people should do (1 Chronicles 12:32).


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