The most challenging situations often lead you to learning more about who you are in Christ. That was true for me.
“YOU’RE FIRED!” Thanks to Donald Trump, these words have become a part of the American lexicon. Unfortunately, one Monday morning, I, too, heard those words drifting across the table — directed at me! I was stunned. I was given two hours to pack my office and leave. It was the first big failure in my life. Now, as I look back, it was also a time when God taught me lessons about leadership and integrity.
I believe it’s in the moments of pain, failure and brokenness that we learn who we really are in relation to our heavenly Father. How can we lead our ministry, or our organization, or live out God’s calling on our life unless we’ve looked in the mirror in order to “keep a close watch on yourself” (1 Tim. 4:16a, ESV), so that we align our leadership with the ways of God.
Fifty percent of your time should be spent knowing and leading yourself. When you know yourself well enough to manage yourself, your ability to influence those you lead — clients, peers, direct reports — is dramatically increased. You are able to make choices that build relationships and trust with those around you.
So what does leading yourself look like?
1. ?We need a deep understanding of how God wired us.
Are you impulsive or deliberate? Are you patient or impatient? What gets you angry? Do you prefer to work as part of a team or alone? How does your behavior change under stress? If we know our strengths, our weaknesses and our vulnerabilities, then we can use those strengths for kingdom work, compensate for our weaknesses and protect our vulnerabilities.
It’s also important to remember that as we seek a closer relationship with the Lord, the Holy Spirit is transforming our personality. Consider the disciple John. He was known as a son of thunder, yet his walk with Jesus made him the disciple who wrote most extensively about love.
2. It’s important to manage ourselves — what the Bible calls self-control.
Proverbs 25:28 (ESV) teaches that failing to practice self-control is “like a city broken into and left without walls.” Think about the last time you were in an emotionally charged situation. What did you do? What triggered your actions? Did you lose control, or respond in a way that built trust? Your ability to manage your responses and reactions to the daily stresses, threats and leadership challenges you face has a direct impact on your ability to inspire and serve others. Every time Jesus experienced a large and intense time of ministry, he withdrew to pray and find solitude. He made a choice to lead himself and spend time with his Father.
3. ?We need to perceive the emotions and needs of those around us.
In John 6:15 (ESV), Scripture tells us that Jesus “perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king,” withdrew to be by himself. Jesus sensed the emotions and intended actions of those around him and chose to withdraw in order to have a positive outcome. We, too, can make choices that will have a positive impact on those around us when we lead ourselves by perceiving through the Spirit what’s in their hearts and making choices that align with the ways of God.
4. ?We need to make choices that will inspire and serve those we lead.
If we claim the name of Christ, integrity demands that we practice what he taught — servant leadership. Jesus told his disciples in Mark 10:43 that “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” When we know ourselves well enough to manage ourselves and when we perceive the emotions and needs of others, then we can make choices to be good stewards of the human resources that God has given us. We can emphasize collaboration, trust and the fruits of the Spirit. We can encourage others to serve, while staying focused on achieving results that bear fruit.
After my firing, God took me into the heart of Chicago to work at one of the most dangerous housing projects in the U.S. There he taught me about leading myself. Ask him to teach you who you are in Christ, and trust him for the insight and wisdom to serve and inspire others.
Nancy Reece serves as senior consultant and executive coach with The Human Capital Group. She has a 20-year background in Christian nonprofit management and teaches Leadership/Organizational Behavior at Lipscomb University’s Graduate College of Business. This post is an excerpt from the 2015 Winter edition of Outcomes Magazine.
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