Reality checks are good for everyone. They are a necessity for leaders.
The truth is, leadership has a way of clouding our view of reality. We can create a false sense of self-worth built on false anti-Gospel premises.
I have spent the last 5 years serving as Lead Pastor and the last dozen or so serving in leadership roles in different organizations. And quite frankly, at various points, I have felt the pull of self-imposed, unhealthy and/or unrealistic expectations. Leadership can be a powerful object of worship and source of worth. A while back, I wrote a note to myself composed of 5 truths about leadership that help refocus my mind and heart. Call it a feeble attempt to bring myself back to reality as I attempt to lead others. A couple of times a week I glance at them, take a deep breath and pray for a moment. Here are the 5 reminders I give myself regularly.
1. You are not irreplaceable
Leading others can create a false sense of importance. The truth is, the world functioned fine without my minuscule contribution before and will do just fine after I am long gone. Saying “I am replaceable” is not saying “I add no value”. It is a reminder that leadership is a temporary stewardship I have been given and will one day have to give up. The leader who is delusional enough to believe they are irreplaceable is probably spending the majority of their time and energy attempting to make that a reality in the organization they lead. Teams led by leaders who possess a false sense of self-importance are always the unhealthiest teams. Leaders who work to make themselves appear irreplaceable are typically low on self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and humility.
Leaders: If the teams we lead are 100% dependent on us to function or succeed we have failed in our leadership.
2. You are not Omni-competent
It is good to remember that God designed me with inherent shortcomings and weaknesses. There are lots of things, that, quite frankly, I am not good at. The liberating truth is, that’s ok. I’m not good at everything. Leading from an understanding of your inherent weaknesses frees you up to empower other leaders that thrive in areas where you are not strong. I am have noticed a direct connection between my awareness of my weaknesses and my willingness to encourage and equip others.
3. There is always more to do
If you are anything like me, this truth is really hard to stomach. CJ Mahaney said years ago, “Jesus is the only leader who checks everything off their list every day”. That’s a helpful reminder. There is always another meeting to have, another phone call to make, another presentation to prepare for. When I am truly grasping that reality I am, interestingly enough, more prone to be productive! I prioritize better. I stress out less. Realizing that I will never come to a point in my life as a leader where there is nothing left to do is an extremely liberating truth to consider. If I understand that the work of a leader never really ends, then I am more prone to observe balance and boundaries in my life.
4. You do not have all the answers
Three words that will set you free as a leader: “I. Don’t. Know.” A few weeks ago a member of our church called me asking for guidance in an extremely difficult, complex matter. For the first 10 min of the phone call, I fumbled for words that attempted to convince this person that I knew what I was talking about, finally, I realized the pride in my heart that was keeping me from acknowledging the truth: I did not have the answer. Leaders often feel embarrassed when they are asked questions and come up empty, but I have found that leaders who openly admit they do not have all the answers are generally trusted and respected more by those who follow them.
5. Your worth is not measured by position
I can struggle with the lie that positional leadership makes me who I am. Leaders who aspire to positions of leadership beyond what they currently possess can begin believing that their worth, their sense of “ok-ness”, is tied intrinsically to the position they want to hold. Leadership can never earn for you what Jesus has already won for you. Peace, fulfillment, joy, identity.
I am not loved by God because I am a leader. I am loved by God because I am His child.
And I will need to reminded of these things tomorrow.