Planning to Let Go - wait, what?

Who else out there is a bit of a control freak? I’m am a self-professed (and sometimes described by my husband and colleagues as a bit of a) control freak. While I prefer the terms particular, high capacity or pursuing excellence, the reality others experience may have some substance to it.

It is true that I have been known to re-do a chore my sons have completed so it is “done right”, or meddle in a co-worker’s project, thinking I could make it better. I have frustrated my husband as he tackles his “honey-do list” and colleagues have been gentle to remind when I need to back off.

If I’m really honest, this is rooted in my preference to be the one making significant contributions, to sparkle, to be the best.  It is rooted in my preference for perfection of the project over the “perfecting” and development of the person.

BUT – those preferences and traits – while comical at times, are the exact opposite of servant leadership. And God has really been refining me on how I truly equip others and the posture with which I serve Him– how I spur others on to be amazing and step into what God has called each of us to.  Those tendencies uncover my subtle need for approval. The need to be accepted and perfect. The need to find value and identity outside of Jesus and His mission.

And if that wasn’t enough, these habits also hamper team growth and effectiveness! How can someone I’m developing truly thrive if I’m the one to fix the mistakes and make additions to an already solid initiative? In my experience, emerging leaders want to find their own places and spaces where God has situated them.  I rob them of the learning, growing and refining when I don’t back off sometimes.

Without question, there is a time for directional leadership and hands-on-the-wheel mentorship, BUT there is also a lot more time when we as leaders need to PLAN to let go.  Our job is to have our up-and-comers, our emerging and developing leaders, work in their own strengths and gifts, succeed on their own merits, fail on their own merits, rinse, and repeat.

This is hard work.  In the 3DM books by Mike Breen, such as Building a Discipleship Culture, talk a lot about the Leadership Square.  While I’m paraphrasing and simplifying for brevity’s sake, the progress that an emerging leader goes through is this:


L1 – Leader does, developing leader watches

L2 – Leader mostly does, developing leader helps

L3 – Developing leader mostly does, Leader helps

L4 – Developing leader does, Leader watches

Progressing from L2 to L3 for the emerging leader is HARD. They fall forward a bunch during this time, get discouraged, and often want to give up or think they are not called to the endeavour they are undertaking.  As their leaders, it becomes our job to champion them – give them lots of vision, time, and grace to see where there are going and how to get there – mindful to not step in and save, but to empower and equip.

If you are a control freak, planning to let go will be a huge challenge for you.  It has absolutely been for me. HOWEVER – the fruit I’ve seen as people develop and emerge is so worth the squirming in my seat as I watch them work, succeed, fail, rinse, repeat.

By Kim Savage

Kim Savage is wife, mother, ambitious career gal and most importantly a beloved daughter of the Most High King and follower of Jesus.  Kim came to faith in her late teens through Young Life and she has spent most of her career in project management and leadership for the non-profit sector.  Only in the last few years did God call her into ministry. Kim currently serves at Gracepoint Community Church. She has a heart for the marginalized and believes that God calls His church to be His hands and feet in the world – making a significant impact in our communities.

Kim Savage