Stepping Out on Faith


“When you get to the end of all the light you know and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly.” ― Edward Teller

As much as people like to think that leadership is about vision and strategy and building a solid culture and high-performing teams — which, of course are all part of it — there seems to be far less focus on the role that faith plays in effective leadership. While some use the term more generically, as in “I have faith (confidence) in my team to make the best decision”, I believe for many leaders faith from a spiritual sense is also a key driver in their success.

For me, these two types of faith are intertwined. Faith in my people comes from experiencing first-hand their commitment to our clearly articulated values and operating practices (SMAC me), which are built on a foundation of faith. While having confidence in my team is important, I don’t think that is the kind of faith that Edward Teller was referring to in the quote above. Rather I think he is talking about the nudges, the feeling in your gut (divine guidance), the tug on your conscience that compels you to make a decision, even when you don’t know exactly how that decision will play out.

In my experience, you often have to “step into the darkness” before a door will open, or a path will be made clear. For leaders who like to be in control of a situation (that’s not just me, right?!?) making a decision to take a leap into the unknown can cause more than a few sleepless nights. I absolutely believe that when I seek His guidance, God will provide. I also believe He expects us to do our part — which to me means planning, considering scenarios and financial implications, etc. Unfortunately, it’s a bit trickier to figure out when you have reached the threshold of “doing your part.” Because sometimes (okay many times) stepping out in faith involves a fairly healthy level of risk. It is one thing to take that type of risk for yourself, but leaders often have to take such risks on behalf of their board, their staff, and all who turn to them for care — which is an even heavier responsibility.

So how do you know if the tug on your conscience really means you are being called to step out in faith? While I make absolutely no claim of being an expert, in my experience when there is something that you really don’t want to do, and you have done everything you can to rationalize a different course of action, and your gut still won’t quiet down, it’s time to step out in faith. Some of my most “visionary” decisions really weren’t so much about MY vision as the confidence that there was a plan, which would become clear if I would just move forward along the path.

Is it time for you to take that step?

Divine Guidance by Way of the Gut

Sun rays

As the leader of a faith-based organization who feels called to do this work (which I do), I believe I have a responsibility, in the midst of the fast pace and increasing noise that has become our version of  “normal,” to pause long enough to listen for Divine guidance.

Actually, that sounds a bit loftier than it feels. You see, I believe God talks to me through my gut . . . and those pauses I take, they tend to be at 2:00 a.m. when I really should be sleeping, or in the shower at 5:30 a.m. when I am trying to wake up from not sleeping.  I realize that my gut may have been trying to talk to me during regular business hours, but that still small voice is not going to try to outshout the crisis du jour . . . it simply waits until I am quiet enough to listen.

And I can tell you from years of experience, trying to bargain with “your gut” is a wasted effort. It is embarrassing to admit how many times over the years my gut was telling me one thing, but logic and the popular opinion of people I respected pointed in a different (usually easier) direction. Every time I tried to rationalize away what my gut was telling me, I have regretted it. Every. Time.

On the flip side, there are those times when I implore God to give me guidance RIGHT NOW. That doesn’t usually work so well either. This will come as no surprise to those who know me, but patience really isn’t my strong suit. I like to plan the work and work the plan. I’m not sure who originally said, “We plan and God laughs”, but I’m fairly certain I have kept Him amused for some time now.

And yet, I find when we as an organization make decisions from the foundation of our faith-based values, striving to truly live out the Golden Rule in our daily work, we reach and often far exceed our goals. The path to get there may be filled with side roads and detours (which, by the way, have the best scenery!), and it may be in His time, not our time, but when you have the faith to stay the course amazing things happen.

I know this is true. You’d think that would make it easy. In my experience . . . not so much. But then maybe it’s not supposed to be easy. Maybe the struggle is part of the journey designed to test our resolve and remind us that we don’t have all the answers . . . but that they will be there if we simply ask, seek, knock . . . and then listen to our gut.