Many years ago I began coaching leaders, although I didn’t know what to call it (funny story for another day). Naturally, the coaching was aimed at helping leaders grow their leadership capacity and competencies. But after a few years of coaching I realized every leader I walked alongside of was missing a crucial element; sustainability. They had mistaken a marathon for the hundred yard dash.
Over the next few years my convictions about cultivating the health of leaders grew exponentially. Fallout, flame out and burnout stories in the news only strengthened my crystalizing hunches that our leadership paradigms were broken. Striving was killing leaders. Hustle culture was burning them out. The quest for platform was wrecking teams. Leaders who once burned for their cause were bankrupt for purpose. Something had to change.
Were perma-stress, burnout, moral compromise and adrenal fatigue written in the fine print of the leadership contract we had all signed? I talked to leaders terrified to be the next leadership casualty on the front page. They were looking for health, but they had no idea where to find it. I mined scripture looking for hope for this leadership conundrum we were in. And I found it.
Workmanship before works.
Identity before impact.
Roots before fruits.
Who we are before what we do.
Jesus lived 90% of his life as a regular dude, no miracles, no crowds, no disciples, yet his Father was pleased with him. We had flipped the script on leading as the Creator designed it, and we were all paying the price for it. The only way forward was backward. With these new lenses I began coaching leaders in a slower ancient paradigm; abiding. Leadership isn’t a task to be crushed, it’s a tender calling to be cultivated.
Stay Forth was birthed in an effort to flip the focus from what we do to who we are. When leaders only change their actions (the what) and transformation does not soak into the roots of their identity (the who) they appear changed only move on to the next leadership role and use, manipulate or even abuse people again. We made our camp at the intersection of the spiritual and the practical. We began coaching leaders, the ones with inordinate influence to make change, in who they are over what they do.
The fruit in leaders looked different. Wives, husbands, families and friends of those I coached became fans of our work. It was changing them in noticeable ways. Their priorities came back into focus. They received the gift of sabbath they had been resisting. Their schedules changed. Their goals changed. They could breathe again. The roots were changing and so was the fruit.
Believe me; this is not the easy path. It’s a longer play, it’s hard work and it requires resistance. But the fruit is real. Unlike the narrow competency coaching I had done years before any area of life and leadership was on the table during any coaching session. All of it.
Jesus described full, zestful abundant life, yet, to many leaders abundant life is a unicorn, a fairytale we’ve read in a book but never experienced. Perhaps taking Jesus at his word about this abundant life makes our team at Stay Forth crazy enough to believe we can live and lead as God designed us; from a place of health, a place of identity, a place of rest.
There is great news; the pressure is off, because our identity is secure. On the best of days and the worst of days. When we succeed wildly and fail miserably. When we are praised or cancelled. When the launch takes off or explodes in our face. In every coaching session we’re pointing back to Jesus who flipped the paradigm on its head from striving to abiding, from impact to identity, from comparing the fruits to cultivating the roots. This upside-down world is longing for right-side-up leaders. And we’re compelled to help develop them.
Founder, Lead Creative, Coach
Alan is a mountain guide for the leadership journey. He loves outdoor adventures, but the greatest adventure of his being a father and husband. Alan is crazy about helping hungry leaders conquer overwhelm and navigate with courage. He serves leaders and organizations around the country through coaching, speaking, consulting, designing experiences, hosting mastermind groups, writing his own books and ghostwriting for others. He co-hosts Right Side up Leadership Podcast and regularly writes for Outreach and Field Notes .