Checkers vs. Chess

The following is an article that I wrote for Convergence Ministries:

I prefer checkers to chess. I know chess is considered by many to be the more mature game of the two, but checkers doesn’t require as much thought or strategy. Sure, there is some strategy involved with checkers, but you could easily play checkers without having to think nearly as hard. Also, with checkers you can be more reactive if you were feeling particularly lazy.

However, one day I was driving and I was thinking about how I was leading my life, family, and ministry. That is when the metaphor of checkers vs. chess first popped up in my mind regarding life and leadership. I had been leading my life with a reaction-driven mentality, and often was moving forward impulsively hoping for the best and not thinking about how my current ‘moves’ would be impacting the future. I was viewing my life like a person who was playing checkers.

I’m not very good at chess, and perhaps this is one of the reasons why I do not prefer it to checkers. However, I know people who are great at chess and often think many moves ahead. They are responsive, strategic, and are aware how one move will effect another opportunity. When I realized this it hit me, “I need to begin viewing life and leadership like a chess player!”

As ministers, leaders, spouses, parents, and teammates we can learn a lot from this metaphor. Most of us lead our lives and all that is involved as lazy checker players. We have tons of opportunities and options on our plate and rather than slowly considering the long-term goals and visions we are serving, we usually react to the most appealing options and ‘fires’ that pop up. Of course, we all have seasons of life when this is inevitable, however, this tends to be the norm rather than the exception for many.

It is not easy to change how we view life, especially if we have forced ourselves into a place where disorganization rules our lives. I know first hand how crippling disorganization can be, so the first step to transition from checker-style living to living like a chess player is to get organized, which I recently did. Also, it will take some time to sit and consider how your current decisions are going to effect long-term impact on you, your family, your church, or your organization. However, this is imperative in order to shift your thinking and outlook.

Those of us who are in any leadership position have a lot that is required of us. The stress builds up quickly and we are forced to make a lot of decisions. However, it is possible to be more strategic in our approach and this is why I hope you will commit to shifting your thinking away from reacting like a checker player and learn to be responsive and strategic like a chess player. You will find that the more you demonstrate this shift, the more your people (family, church members, etc.) will trust you and follow your lead, and the lower stress you will experience in the long-run. Leading like a chess player requires that we keep the end in mind (capturing the King) while being intentional about the steps in getting there.


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