Do you remember the George Bernard Shaw quote made famous by Robert F. Kennedy? He said, “Some men see things as they are and say, ‘Why?’ I dream of things as they never were and say, ‘Why not?’”

Robert Kennedy was demonstrating one of the key ingredients of leadership — the ability to think creatively. I started to say “to think critically” but refrained because of the negative connotation often associated with the word “critical.” What I’m talking about is not critical thinking in the sense of thinking in a negative way but creative thinking, thinking that asks questions that have not been asked before and, consequently, arrives at conclusions no one else has reached. In fact, I would offer the following simple definition of a leader: A LEADER IS ONE WHO THINKS!

Two ingredients are necessary for a person to think: time and technique.

TIME: Anne Bryant, executive director of the American Association of University Women, believes that reflection — that is, creative thinking — is the key to leadership. “Every morning after the alarm goes off,” she says, “I lie in bed for about fifteen minutes, going over what I want to get out of each event of my day, and what I want to get done by the end of the week. I’ve been doing it for two or three years, and if I don’t do it, I feel I’ve wasted the day.”

If that’s true in the business world in relationship to that which is temporary and material, how much more important is it at church in relationship to that which is permanent and spiritual. Because “a leader is one who thinks” it is imperative that we make time to think about the church.

I do some of my most creative thinking while I exercise. Two or three times a week I ride the stationary bike for about thirty to forty minutes. During that half-hour of physical exercise, I am also involved in mental calisthenics. Actually, the physical exercise probably provides added stimulus to the mental exercise. Nevertheless, it happens because I make that a part of my weekly schedule.

So how do we find that time? We can find time by:

  • getting up half an hour earlier in the morning
  • going to bed half an hour later at night
  • taking a ride in the country away from the activity of the city
  • sitting and listening to music
  • taking a sack lunch and using part of our lunch hour.

How we do it is a matter of personal choice. That we do it is an imperative. Finding time to think is the first key ingredient to becoming a more effective leader.

TECHNIQUE: That raises another question. With this extra time devoted to thinking, what strategies can we implement in our lives to enable us to think more creatively? Here are some suggestions:

  • We can read fifteen to twenty minutes a day from essays, plays, poetry, short stories, and novels of those recognized as great writers.
  • We can talk with people from other disciplines and listen to them explain what they do.
  • We can study the biographies of successful and creative people.
  • We can write in a journal for a six month period and then review what we wrote.
  • We can come to church some Sunday or go to work some day and act as if we have never been there before. We need to look at the church or the office as a stranger would see it. Then, we need to ask ourselves these questions: Can we find our way around? Are the people friendly? What do the facilities look like?

Robert Kennedy said: “Some men see things as they are and say, ‘Why?’ I dream of things as they never were and say, ‘Why not?’” Into which category do you most comfortably fit?