Many church leaders find it difficult to take a stand. We are afraid of offending or causing conflict. But sometimes avoiding conflict causes more long-term problems than it solves. When leaders are brave enough to stand up for what they believe, followers, and organizations as a whole, do better.
Eleanor Roosevelt understood this. I’m still reading about her later life, a little at a time. Eleanor Roosevelt was a delegate to the first meeting of the first session of the United Nations General Assembly in London in January 1946, within 8 months of her husband’s death. She wrote in her diary about Secretary of State James Byrnes, another U.S. delegation member: “Secretary Byrnes seems to me to be afraid to decide on what he thinks is right and stand on it…we could lead but we don’t. We shift to conciliate and trail either Great Britain or Russia and at times I am sure a feeling that we had convictions and would fight for them would be reassuring to them (Joseph Lash, Eleanor: The Years Alone, p. 50).
Taking a stand doesn’t mean a rigid insistence that others agree. It’s saying, as Martin Luther did, “Here I stand.” We can invite others to stand with us, in a way that is not arrogant or willful, but open to possibility. As ER notes, it is reassuring when the leader has convictions and will take some risks for those convictions. Sometimes people initially get anxious when a leader takes a stand, but over time, anxiety will be lower with a calm, clear presence at the top.