While I am not a soccer (futbol) fan, I have enjoyed watching some of the World Cup this year (a 42′ HD TV certainly helps). I tried to watch the USA games and now that they are out of the tournament, I have lost a little interest in the whole affair. If I had to pick another team, I would choose between Brazil and Paraguay as those are two countries that I have spend some time in. (I was in Paraguay during the previous World Cup.) I have flags for both nations- which makes me feel as if I could cheer for them better than I could cheer for Ghana or Spain. I lean to cheering for Brazil because, in my limited soccer knowledge, I know that they are good. Very good. But I also know that cheering for Brazil is similar to cheering for the Yankees or the Red Sox.
That aside, watch Brazil play soccer makes one realize why soccer get called the “beautiful game.” I was captivated watching them play one of their earlier rounds as the team played with unity, artistry, and excellence. One thing that was evident in the game (and any team game involving passing a ball) was the importance of vision. In soccer (hockey, basketball, football, etc.), a player must be able to see the whole field in front of them. In order to do that, their head must be up- not looking at the ball. (I can remember my Dad and other basketball coaches telling me to “keep your head up!”) Vision alone is not enough to be successful, but the player must have anticipation. So often in soccer, a player passes to an empty spot because they anticipate that their teammate is running to that spot to receive the pass. Vision and anticipation is a lot hard to defend than just reactionary movement.
Vision and anticipation are two important components to Church leadership as well. As leaders, we must have vision of the entire landscape of our church. We can’t just rely on what we can see right in front of us, but must use our peripheral vision in order to see what others are unable to see. A soccer player is always scanning the field looking for the next opportunity to strike. Likewise, the church leader must be scanning trends, social dynamics, and other opportunities in order to lead effectively.
Likewise, a leader needs anticipation. Vision will help the leader see what is coming before anyone else realizes it. Anticipation helps the leader jump start change or a new direction in stride rather than reacting to the new circumstances. Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Church uses the example of a surfer. A surfer is scanning the horizon (vision) for the just the right wave to ride (anticipation). A surfer will pass up inferior waves until just the right one comes along. As leaders, if we are using our vision and anticipating changes, we may, in essence, be passing to an empty spot on the field- but if we have done the hard work of leadership we know that the empty spot won’t be empty for long as someone fills that spot and advances for an opportunity to score. Now vision and anticipation do not always lead to a goal- and they won’t always lead to successful leadership- but the more we practice it, the better we get at advancing the ball towards to goal.
How are you practicing vision and anticipation as a leader? What are some places where you are looking for trends in anticipation for the next wave? What kind of pushback do you get when you’re passing to an “empty space” as a leader?
I was bummed the U.S. lost but my interest in the World Cup has only increased because as it gets into the later rounds it gets harder to predict what team will win. That and I have taken to rooting against Argentina and their obnoxious head cheerleader/coach. I'm pulling for Paraguay all the way, but will settle for a victory for the Oranje, Ghana or any of the other remaining countries that haven't already won it.
As for the leadership metaphor, I think it's a great one. I think the fact that Americans would rather watch overgrown kids smashing into each other and taking decades off their lives than the beautiful and majestic rhythm and patience that is a well-oiled soccer team is unfortunate. We're so obsessed with things being big, action-packed and violent that we don't know how to appreciate the subtlety of a well-timed pass, a hard fought header or a perfectly executed set piece.
In the church, we often do much the same thing – looking for the big and exciting thing now and lose site of the gradual, sometimes extremely slow organic movement of the spirit. The first example that comes to mind is this: putting a majority of our time, money and staff resources into a Sunday morning event that large percentages of our community don't care about and wouldn't even subject themselves to if we were giving away a new Porsche.
Your thoughts on Sunday morning vs. commmunity outreach is a difficult one. I certainly see your point- and a lot of resources go into it. It is an important time to teach/encourage/etc., but we ought to be able to reduce the amount of bells and whistles and put the resources in other places.