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Chapter XV Peter (The Prioritizer) Print E-mail
Written by Ray Fairman   

In Acts 6:1-7 there is a lesson you can learn from Peter, a leader who understood that he couldn't do everything there is to do all by himself. Like many of us in the military or law enforcement professions, Peter tended to be a "control freak and a micro-manager".  Peter was often deluged with more than any one man could be expected to be in charge of, but through the power of Christ and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit he was able to organize these tasks and accomplish many great things primarily through and for the benefit of others. I am sure you law enforcement officers have had those nights on patrol when you asked yourself just who told the dispatcher that you were Superman. You know what I mean, too many calls, not enough time and three guys called in sick, yet the complainants and your sergeant expect you to handle it.

Peter was wise enough to realize that everything that people want to do does not necessarily always need to be done. You see, a wise leader must clearly understand that everything that catches a person's eye should not necessarily ignite the passion of their heart. A leader's heart and his efforts should be focused only on that activity which will result in worthwhile endeavors, the outcome of which will produce accomplishments that truly benefit others and have long lasting results.

For the purpose of our discussion we will be referring to this organizational practice of Peters as the "Principle of Prioritization?"  Proper utilization of this principle will more often than not help to sharpen a leader's focus by helping them concentrate primarily on significant tasks. Tasks that will advance the accomplishment of the vision they are sharing with their followers. Concentration exercised to the general exclusion of all nonessential activity.

Peter's application of prioritization helps illustrate a formula that can be graphically expressed as:

GP + CM = FA (Great Passion + Clear Mission = Focused Action)

Go ahead and take a moment to assess your own leadership example and examine your own understanding and utilization of prioritization. Are your activities spread out all over the place full of passion but short on direction, or are you focused on the few things that will produce the greatest rewards? Do you finish what you start before going on to another project?  Do you try and manage and get involved in every aspect of each task you have going or have delegated? If you are not able to effectively "micro-manage" (which is not really an admirable leadership trait anyway) then delegate the task(which is and admirable quality in a leader) to those you have trained to accomplish that skill and then let them do it as Peter did when the Grecian Jews came complaining about their physical needs. Peter realized that he could not do all things for all people, so Deacons were born into the church and ordained with the appropriate responsibilities and the requisite authority to accomplish their specific mission. Leaders must concentrate only on what really matters and communicate that attitude to their followers. Prioritization encompasses one of the hardest skills there is for a leader to master because it requires developing the seemingly incongruous ability to tell others "No." A task not relished by a person with a servant's heart and compassion for those in need. One of my many military illustrations comes from the WWII US Army logistics operation referred to in history as "The Red Ball Express." They shuttled "Beans, Band-Aids and Bullets" to the front and wounded warriors to the rear. When asked what they did if convoy vehicles broke down or became battle damaged and blocked the roads, members of the unit would reply, "Haul ass and by-pass!" They would qualify that response if the issue was pursued by inquiring of the inquisitor, "would you rather receive 80% of the supplies or lose 100% of the convoy." Having "Faced the elephant" myself on an occasion or two... the answer to that question is mute.

Now let's look for a moment at the four factors that determined Peter's actions in light of the responsibilities of today's leader. The first thing a leader must do is to assess and determine the validity of the need, which is brought to him. If the need is found to be an essential need, then the second thing the leader must do is evaluate the results of, deferring or delegating the need and find out what resources are available. The third thing a leader must do is determine what leadership opportunities may exist within the need. Is it possible to use the process of satisfying this need to further the confidence, technical proficiency or the visibility and viability of some of your subordinate leaders? If so that alone might increase its priority. As a leader you must never forget that your primary responsibility is to serve and develop your subordinates. The last thing a leader must be able to do is to be able to delegate lower priority tasks to competent subordinates for the utmost efficiency of the organization and for their own professional development. This process increases your efficiency and increases their overall value to both the organization and themselves. But always make sure you know your people's skills and their limitations. No matter what the outcome, you can never and should never even attempt to divert any of the responsibility from yourself. You should instead focus on publicly and professionally commissioning, commending and recognizing the assignment of those subordinates you have empowered to accomplish specific and integral tasks necessary for the joint success of your mission. This public confirmation of their abilities will serve to strengthen the bonds of leadership in all directions. Sadly this confirmation and recognition is often sacrificed by current day leaders who appear to be more personally achievement driven rather than character driven.

Never forget that most people spend 80% of their time on 20% of their taskings, because they fail to recognize the efficiency of teamwork and fail to exhibit the faith they say they have in their subordinates. That characteristic is more indicative of power, than of leadership.

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