I’ve Got an Opinion!
Don’t you dislike (hate) dealing with people who consistently bring opinions and complaints but rarely bring solutions?
My bosses taught me early in my career to bring suggested solutions if I was bringing to their attention a potential problem. I took this to heart and tried to always bring a solution (even if bad) for the issues I saw. And I’ve always encouraged my teams to do the same.
Stances and Problems
Perhaps it’s just me, but I’ve noticed a similar scenario with “stances.”
A “stance” is a position taken against an issue or problem, be it political, theological, or ideological. Taking a stance means defining your position.
It’s like planting a flag.
Problems and issues often demand stances as they require solutions. Values drive stances. When we take a stance, we allow our values to inform our position. All of this is fine. And even necessary.
Here’s the problem. Stances don’t solve problems.
Like a complaining staff member, a “stance” only points out a problem while taking a side. A stance says, “Here’s where I stand,” but it doesn’t offer, “And here’s what I’m willing to do about it.”
A Quick (Controversial) Example
I saw a great example of this recently. Take your opinions on this topic off the table for a moment so you don’t miss the point.
Jim Harbaugh recently attended a Pro-Life March. Of course, new crews interviewed him. In the interview, he said something like, “I’m pro-life. I’ve always been pro-life. “That’s a stance. But then he followed up, saying, “And I’ve always told my players, if they find themselves facing an unwanted pregnancy, please go through with it. If you find at any point that you cannot keep the baby, our family will adopt it. No questions asked.”
That’s a solution — a very personal solution.
Harbaugh is one of the few people I’ve heard take a pro-life stance while offering a personal, pro-life solution for his position.
He’s one of the few people I’ve heard take any stance while offering a solution.
As a Leader (I.E. Anyone with Influence)
People have options and stances on everything and everyone. That’s fine. Leaders need to have a stance on most topics, too.
If you’re a pastor like I was for the past 15 years, you need to have a position on various challenging topics. A lack of position creates confusion and lacks clarity for those attending your church. But, and I cannot overstate the importance of what I’m about to say, you also need to have a solution. At the risk of going too far, I’d like to suggest a few examples:
You need to take a stance LGBTQ, but you equally need a solution to disciple LGBTQ people.
You should probably have a position on transgender and gender fluidity, but you equally need to offer a solution.
You need to take a stance on divorce and remarriage, but you need to bring a solution.
I could go on and on. Name a topic. You need a stance and a solution in keeping with your mission.
In the local church, stances without solutions have been disastrous for people and the Kingdom. We’ve got to do better.
Take this out of pastoral leadership for a moment. An organizational leader of any kind should have stances on policies, procedures, culture, values, and systems. But a stance without a solution causes frustration. “I believe in great customer service” is a stance. How should this stance translate into action? How should this stance create a solution or resolution?
That’s too simplistic of an example, but you get the point.
Great leaders move past what they believe to engage in how they’ll behave. If you want to take a stance, take it, but bring a solution with your position. Leaders with solutions are worth following. These kinds of leaders create movements that can make a difference.
If You Don’t Have a Solution…
Keep your stance to yourself. That may be too harsh of a statement, but it may also be accurate.
Stances without solutions cause frustrations. Stating what you think without suggesting how you’ll behave leaves the issue unresolved.
It may be best for everyone in leadership to keep our stance private if we can’t offer a solution, lest we just become complainers. So, for stances disconnected from your organizational existence, stay quiet. But for issues and problems directly connected to your organization or team, take the time to fully and honestly evaluate the topic, form a well-informed stance, and process and articulate an acceptable solution.