The Relational Leader S3: The Tension of Relationships Versus Productivity

My hardwired nature is to sacrifice relationships at the expense of productivity. I love to work. In fact, you can probably consider it my drug of choice. Fortunately, however, I know exactly where that comes from and I’ve learned to manage that tension within myself. I have learned – am learning - to create a balance of relationships and productivity in my life.


It wasn’t easy, but for the most part I’ve done it. No matter what side of the spectrum you’re on... I know YOU can do it as well.






Do you know your hardwire? Are you self-aware enough to know your natural tendencies when it comes to managing relationships and work?


The more you know yourself

the more you have the ability

to make decisions to go against your grain.


Let me explain this in a little more detail. According to a particular assessment I use, I have a 99% prudence. This means my nature is to be highly structured. Within that prudence score, I have a 79% task mastery. This means that, to a high degree, I want to make sure a task is completed, and that it is done right.


Though I have an average or mid-range interpersonal sensitivity score, my prudence trumps my interpersonal sensitivity just about every time. So, are you wondering what all these terms actually mean? Let me explain it a little more clearly.


It means I will choose task completion (also known as work) - I will choose work over relationships just about every time. That is, unless I am conscious of this about myself and make a concerted effort to choose instead to invest in relationships over productivity.


You may be the opposite of this. You may be so relational that when people are around, you struggle to get anything done. Most of us have a natural bent one way or the other. However, here’s the deal - we don’t have to be out of balance with productivity and relationships. It is ultimately possible to strike a balance. In order to be a relational leader, we must balance ourselves.


A leader who doesn’t interact well relationally will not have much influence to exert. Yet, if a leader does not actually get something done, that leader is not going to move toward the mission or the vision the Lord has given.


So where does all of this come from? There are a lot of factors that can play into the cause of your natural bent on relationships verses productivity. It could be just DNA. Genes play a huge role in those tendencies. It could be your childhood of origin, the way your parents or guardians raised you. Often many of these tendencies are set at a very early age.


For me, I think it mostly came from my grandfather. My grandfather passed away in early 2020. In my grieving process, I actually learned a little more about where my productivity craving came from. I was reflecting back on some of the memories of my grandfather and realized one of the most impacting statements of my life came from him. He would often tell me when I was a kid, “Ryan, if you don’t work hard, you’re never gonna amount to anything.”

Now, he didn’t mean this in an unhealthy way. He was not mean-spirited at all. It was just his personal life observation. Yet, in my head and heart, I took his words to actually mean, “Ryan, if you don’t work hard, you’re not going to get your grandfather’s approval.” So, what do you think I did? All of my life, I worked really hard. I worked hard at school. I worked hard at work. I worked really hard. Without knowing I was making a choice, often I sacrificed relationships and internal, Godly fulfillment just to work a little harder.


SIDE NOTE: I’ve always been considered the structure guy behind the scenes at POA. (I talk a lot about this in one of my sessions in my Leader Life in Rhythm course that can be found at ChurchLeaderMadeSimple.com. I encourage you to go check it out. It’s completely free because I want to invest in you. I have a really good feeling that it will be very helpful to my blog readers).


Ultimately, the thing this unhealthy work mindset led to was an emptiness and an unhappiness within me created by the off-balance of my life. There are definitely other extreme approaches to work. Some people are lazy and don’t want to work at all; their mindset is opposite mine. Neither one of these extreme choices are totally “right” or totally “wrong.”


I have a feeling, though, if you are a pastor or a church leader of some sort, most of you lean toward being a workaholic. We are obsessed with busyness. For some of us, it is almost like a medication; then we blame it on the Kingdom of God. We give ourselves permission to over work because it’s “for the Kingdom of God.” We tend to justify our work addiction by giving it that spiritual label.


However, here’s the problem with those extremes. A true, meaningful life many times escapes this person. They achieve success, even for the Kingdom of God, yet they’re not experiencing true, long-lasting fulfillment as a member of the Kingdom. They do not have that abundant life the Lord desires for each of us to live. I can tell you all about this, because it’s exactly where I was a number of years back. It is something I occasionally still struggle with even today.

So, where is the middle ground?

What does health look like for the relational leader?


In the middle of the extremes of relationships versus productivity, there’s a called man or woman of God who is a good steward, who is obedient to God and not of overly ambitious, who is committed rather than overly competitive. This individual is a person who longs to please God. The result is a person with a rhythm between relationships and productivity, a person who interacts well with people while also achieving a lot of Spirit-led, practical things as well.


So, you may be saying, “Okay, Ryan . . .You got me. What do I do to bring balance?” I am SO glad you asked…I’ll tell you some more in the next blog . . .


Meanwhile, here’s a little “homework” while you wait:


Ask three of your closest friends (the ones you know will be truthful with you) to tell you what they think about your balance with relationships and productivity.


Many times we are blinded to what is really going on in our lives. This outside input will give you a perspective you may not be able to see on your own. This will get you ready for our next session on how to achieve balance with productivity and relationships.


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