Stages in Leadership


Lovett Weems reflects on stages of leadership through the experience of making a difficult journey.

A few years ago, I was scheduled to preach on the first Sunday of January in a community about two hours from where I lived. When the day of the service came, I got up very early to begin the trip since the weather was not good. I called to make sure the service would still be held. As soon as I started driving, allowing an additional hour to make the trip, I realized that the trip was going to be long and hard.

Snow and ice covered all the highways. There was no other traffic on the roads. My experience of driving that day went through some very clear and distinct cycles. Later, in reflecting on what happened that day, I came to see that these are cycles through which we as leaders often go.

Concern and doubt

At first I wondered if I could make the trip. Could I navigate the slippery highways? Was I adept enough to handle such hazardous driving conditions? Was I up to the challenge? I felt very little confidence in the first part of the journey. I was pleasantly surprised that I could navigate at all even though it was at a very slow speed.


After a time of facing this driving challenge, I began to figure out some better ways to handle the difficulties I was facing. I learned ways to avoid the worst dangers I faced. I developed techniques that permitted me to drive a bit faster.


A modest degree of self-confidence came with each mile successfully completed. Confidence increased as I faced each new challenge and found a way to overcome it. The experience of the morning was giving me confidence that I could figure out how to handle what remained of the trip.

Complacency and overconfidence

The feeling of self-confidence was reassuring. I grew more relaxed. I worried less about the condition of the bridges or the oncoming traffic now developing. I had crossed many bridges successfully and, by now, done well in facing increasing traffic, including large trucks.

I began to drive faster. I noticed the road conditions a little less. My sense of competence and confidence were leading me to think less carefully about what I was doing. And then what I had been fearing all morning happened. A large truck came by, throwing ice and snow over my windshield. I hit a patch of ice, and my car started spinning around and then went off the highway.

Fortunately, no other traffic was coming. I was able to get the car back on the road, and even make my preaching assignment on time, though few others could get to the service due to local road conditions!

All analogies have their limits, but I am struck by parallels between this trip and the challenges of leadership.

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About Author

Dr. Lovett H. Weems, Jr.

Lovett H. Weems Jr. is senior consultant at the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, distinguished professor of church leadership emeritus at Wesley Theological Seminary, and author of several books on leadership.

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