These are my summary reflections from the Catalyst East Conference in Atlanta, GA.  The theme this year was “The Tension is Good”, so the speakers mostly used their talks to explore various tensions we all feel in Leadership.  I don’t summarize every speaker.

Andy always speaks twice at Catalyst – opening and closing.  His closing talk is always hardcore, nuts-and-bolts leadership, and is always among my favorite of the conference.  This year proved no exception (though I was disappointed to learn that he’d already given this talk at Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit).

Andy used the opposable thumb to great effect: because we have an opposable thumb, we can leverage tension to create and progress far beyond the rest of the animal kingdom.  Tension is actually necessary for any organization that wants to make progress.

Every organization has problems that shouldn’t be solved and tensions that shouldn’t be resolved.

If you “resolve” any of these tensions, you only create new tensions elsewhere, and you’ll create barriers to progress.  Progress depends not on the resolution of the tensions, but on the successful management of those tensions.

Examples: Evangelism vs. Discipleship.  Building vs. Giving. Music vs. Sermons

To distinguish between problems to solve and tensions to manage ask the following:
  1. Does this problem/tension keep resurfacing?
  2. Do both sides have mature advocates?
  3. Are the two sides actually interdependent?
The role of leadership is to leverage the tension for the benefit of the organization.  How?
  1. Identify the tensions to be managed.
  2. Create new terminology.  Vocabularize what you’re doing so everyone can be on board.
  3. Inform your core team.  Make sure everyone is in on the conversation.
  4. Continually give value to both sides.
  5. Don’t weigh in too heavily based on your personal biases.
  6. Don’t allow strong personalities to win the day.  It’s not a win when somebody wins.
  7. Don’t think in terms of balance.  Think in terms of rhythm.

My job is to make sure the important, progress-critical tension never drop out of sight.

We need passionate people who will champion their side and mature people who understand tension.

As a leader, on e of the most valuable things you can do for your organization is differentiate between tensions you organization will always need to manage and problems that need to be solved.

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