“Back to Basics” Leadership

This past week in wrestling practice, we used the term “Back to Basics” with our athletes. After competing this past weekend, we had seen a lot of our wrestlers had gotten away from their plan of attack on the mat, and doing some of the basic technique that we’ve been drilling since the beginning of practice. So it was “back to basics” for all of them – to simplify their approach and how they’re wrestling.

But, as I’ve thought more about the term, I realize “Back to Basics” has more to do with one’s mindset and philosophy than it does technical fixes or problem solving. This past week in of my seminary classes, a couple of Lutheran pastors who have served and led large churches (4000+) spoke in our class. One of the questions raised to them were: “What are your ‘non-negotiables’ as you approach leadership and ministry?” In other words, what basic values or principles are they committed to, and that guide their leadership, their way of relating with people and the way they think?

And on the mat, the first thing we did with the athletes wasn’t going over specific technique. Rather, we first reiterated our philosophy of wrestling at Augsburg College – our takedown philosophy and our approach to wrestling on the top and bottom positions on the mat. Mindset and philosophy.

So all this thinking on “Back to Basics” and “non-negotiables” has me thinking: What are your basic commitments as a leader? What mindset and philosophy do you bring to your coaching, work, or ministry as a leader, and how do those commitments shape how you communicate, relate, and lead others? I think it’s a question worth asking, because it keeps us grounded on what our aim is, as a leader, as a community, as a team, an institution, etc.

One word about “Back to Basics” commitments though: I’ve noted, both as a wrestling coach and as a future pastor, that those commitments are clear, but they are also flexible enough to allow people to grow and develop in the ways they need to. For example, one of our takedown philosophies is “Always on the attack.” Yet, based on the person’s abilities, how that gets achieved is different. It allows for different expressions. Ministry is no different. If you hold the commitment that church is a community of God, for instance, is it expansive enough to allow for people to live out their vision of community based on the tenants of faith?

Some of my commitments are pretty practical. Some are more theological and faith-based. But those commitments shape the basics of both how I coach my athletes and how I relate as a pastor to God’s people. I invite you to get “Back to Basics” and to think about your own “non-negotiables.” I’d love for you to share what yours are as well….because collaboration is one way we get better at this and grow as leaders.


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