Coaching pastors in the development of their leadership, it is important to distinguish between the leader’s intention and her impact. Much of the time, my clients’ intentions are good…or, neutral.

Yet their impact is sometimes far from either.

This creates an important opening for some catalytic coaching.

As the debate over Obamacare, gay marriage, and immigration reform rages on, there’s renewed interest in what’s called the law of unintended consequences59 unintended consequences

Possibly originating with Adam Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment, the concept burst into prominence in 1936 in an article by sociologist Robert Merton. The general notion is this: in a complex system, any effort to engineer a beneficial outcome can be thwarted by the emergence of unanticipated and often undesirable effects.

 

In other words: impact, not intention.

 

Leaders are influencers. There’s no leadership apart from influencing others.

And, leaders—no matter how highly skilled—at times create an impact other than what they intend.

As a leader it is imperative to manage your impact, regardless of the nobility of your intention.

Every married person, no doubt, has conjured up a plan to bless their mate, only to have it “blow up” … producing a very undesirable result.

About 15 months into our hand-to-mouth existence as a newly married couple, I though we’d finally saved enough money to take our first vacation.

Thinking it would “bless” our wives if Rich and I handled all the details, we did.

59 motelWe chose the destination: the seaside community of Marblehead, Mass, the means of transportation: 38 hours in a two-door Buick [far too cramped for two couples and two babies], lodgings along the way: relatives and friends (to conserve our cash), and our ultimate destination: a roadside motel that stunk of mildew and the last guests, who typically stayed only a few hours at a time.

The trip was a disaster—and Annie endured, dreading every minute of it!

Any woman reading will have already exclaimed: “Kirk, what were you thinking??!!!

And, my answer illustrates the importance of this distinction.  See, my intentions—while wrongheaded, seemed innocent enough to me. And, I defended myself for weeks on that basis.

But, the undeniable reality is that I overlooked, frustrated, devalued, hurt, and dishonored Annie.

THAT’s my impact.

Until I address my impact, own it, and make amends for it, there’s no movement toward reconciliation.

Intentions are irrelevant.

It’s my impact I must respond to.

 

 

 

Coaching distinctions #59.doc