The Leadership Supply Chain

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

During the first Gulf War in 1991, U.S. civilians were treated to daily pictures of bombs dropping down chimneys and Iraqi tanks being hit by stealth fighters. They were likewise treated to the first modern war, televised start to finish. The generals who gave information briefings also delivered, over those few months, a graduate course on logistics. If you paid attention, you could realize the secret to winning nearly any military conflict in the twenty-first century. 

Said one Army officer, “A division fights on its ability to sustain and replenish itself. It’s in essence a living organism—it consumes, it emits energy and power and it must continually be refueled, recharged. The more active and versatile it is, the more dynamic its tactics, the higher the rate of consumption.” As we watched, we began to understand that the battle was not won chiefly on the battlefield, but first in the warehouse, and in the supply chain. This is true today but it is also historically accurate. 

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In life, in faith, in business, the same is true. The leader must be continually refueled, rearmed and repaired. The leadership history book is filled with men and women who burned out, gave up, failed miserably or missed a critical opportunity because their leadership supply chain wasn’t working. Not only do isolated leaders lack the supply they need to lead, but they can be removed from the people, the reality, and counsel they need to lead effectively. When you look at the logistics of your leadership, consider:

Who is refueling your life? Food and air are far from the only fuel you need for life. Emotional and spiritual fuel are equally important. Every person needs care and encouragement. A leader who does not receive these vital human connections eventually runs out of fuel to move forward. The leader’s relationship with his or her spouse, friends and family, and coworkers are essential. In fact, recent studies indicate that social isolation is actually more dangerous to your health than obesity.[1] The Bible reminds us that we also have a source of spiritual fuel, God Himself, who gives us all that we need as He draws from His limitless supply (Philippians 4:19). This conduit of this fuel is our relationship with God, the most important relationship that we have in all of life, our most urgent source of connection for every leadership decision we make. Maintaining healthy connections with family and trusted friends, and continually growing your relationships with God, will refuel your leadership for the road ahead. 

Who is re-arming your life? Your life in some ways is having the right weapon available at the right time, for the circumstances you are currently facing. God’s Word provides us with knowledge that is accurate and effective. Jesus, when facing the devil’s temptations in Matthew 4:1-11, replied to each test by Satan, “It is written…” and then quotes a Scripture from the Old Testament. The ultimate sword we can draw in every situation is the Word of God. Your knowledge of the Bible is powerful ammunition of knowledge that is effective against your enemies. Knowing the Word of God means knowing the thoughts of God, the ways of God and the practical directions of God. Spending daily time in the Bible will re-arm your mind for the leadership decisions ahead. 

Who is supplying your spare parts for life? In addition to vital relationships and biblical knowledge, a leader also needs help when things break down. The key here is knowing the equipment that is being affected—you. Can you determine whether or not you are too busy to lead effectively, struggling with crises or circumstances, or closed off to wise counsel or needed input? Knowing which spare parts are required means knowing how you are being negatively affected in your leadership role. Often leaders become so focused on their outward duties and responsibilities that they fail to take a step toward introspection. A helpful self-awareness practice you can do on a continual basis is to journal. Take a few minutes each day, perhaps during your Bible study and prayer time, to write about how you are doing, challenges you face, questions you have, and also where and how you believe you are effective. 

A study by Harvard Business Review found that introspective leaders are truly rare—only about 10-15% of leaders. The study also found that those who had a clear perception of their own values, passions, goals, thoughts, feelings and behaviors were associated with “higher job and relationship satisfaction, personal and social control, and happiness.”[2] Developing an introspective practice through journaling will help you to know which spare parts you need most to stay fit for the leadership battles ahead.

In World War II, the best fighting tank in Europe belonged to the Germans. The Tiger I was more accurate than British or American tanks. It could fire faster, and fire better on the move. It was more heavily armored. In fact, head-to-head it could destroy any Allied tank with ease. But there were big problems with the Tiger. The Germans couldn’t manufacture enough ammunition for it. Worse, its massive body, engine and drive train—all of 67 tons—was twice as heavy as the Allied’s Serman tanks. Bridges often stopped them because they were too heavy to cross. They guzzled fuel at a tremendous rate. And they were difficult to repair. 

It was by far the best designed and built tank of World War II, but lack of fuel, bullets and spare parts doomed them. Only 1,400 Tigers were produced, and many ended up abandoned, or were simply lost in battle because they couldn’t move or return fire. There was a tremendous cost in lives to German forces to learn the valuable lesson of the supply chain.  

[1] https://slate.com/technology/2013/08/dangers-of-loneliness-social-isolation-is-deadlier-than-obesity.html

[2] https://hbr.org/2018/01/what-self-awareness-really-is-and-how-to-cultivate-it