Find your identity in Christ
As you grow in your skills and leadership, be careful to not find your identity in what you’re particularly good at doing. If you begin to lead, and if you show a type of grit that is befitting of a person of God, and you’re making those decisions, and if you begin to be recognized for being gifted in that arena, you are in the dangerous spot of easily letting that gift define who you are as a man or woman. It’s where your confidence comes from. It’s where you’re most comfortable with who you are. It’s where you know what to do. It’s where you have direction. Perhaps this reveals itself most on your days off of work. You know the feeling I’m talking about. It’s when you wake up on your day off and you feel kind of lost and you don’t know precisely what to do and you kind of look forward to getting back to work or back to the role where you know you are gifted. Be careful! This might be a sign of finding your identity in the wrong place. How do you guard against finding identity in your leadership and work? Contemplate your true identity!
You are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus
You are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
You are the recipient of the free gift of God which is eternal life in Christ Jesus
You are the ones that now know no condemnation for you are in Christ Jesus.
You are the ones that the Spirit of life has set free from the law of sin and death in Christ Jesus
You are the ones that neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Your identity is to be found in Christ Jesus alone. Do you want to lead well? Then you must not be tempted by what worldly leadership has to offer in this life.
The benefit of identity in Christ
Guarding yourself against improper identity in those leadership roles allows you to transition out of roles when the time comes. There will come a point in certain leadership roles where the most God glorifying thing and the thing that best serves those around you is for you to transition out of that role. If your identity is wrapped up in Christ, this will come much easier. If your identity is wrapped up in what you’ve become good at doing, this will be a painful process for you and those around you.
Do stuff with your hands
As you grow in leadership, much of your work becomes knowledge work. In our western civilization, much of our work is research, or computer work, or teaching, or things that are not done with the hands. Make sure that you encourage yourself with occasional concrete and definitive work. This is more than completing a checklist. This is starting a physical task and completing it.
Maybe it’s building a tree house for your kids. Maybe it’s running or gardening. Think here of Ronald Reagan at his ranch taking care of the land. It’s something concrete that can be measured. You can physically see improvement. You can work on specific aspects to affect improvement. Encourage yourself. Take a break from the knowledge work that is before us. These physical tasks have a way of simultaneously humbling you and encouraging you all at once.
Ask the Lord for wisdom
Remember to ask the Lord for wisdom and guidance. When I was young, a mentor and I were speaking and parted ways on a Sunday morning. And I was talking with my friends in youth group, he ran up to me and said, “Jeremiah, I forgot to tell you, every time you sit down to read the Word, or even when you’re reading something like theology, ask for the Spirit to guide your heart and mind and illuminate God’s truths to you.” That has always stuck with me.
And I pray every time I sit down to read the word that the Lord would send His spirit to guide my heart and mind. The same goes for tasks that you set out to do. Ask the Lord for wisdom and guidance in your leadership every day. Everyday at work, I ask for the Lord’s wisdom in guiding our company. Remember, these do not have to be complex and amazing prayers with wonderful insights. You’re just a person.
And you’re talking to the almighty creator of the universe. It’s a simple request. Ask for wisdom. He knows your needs. Go about your day. But be consistent about praying for wisdom. (James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.)
First, work hard, then smart
You’ve heard it said, work smart, not hard. I would say, work smart, yes. But first, work hard. In our rush to become leaders, we’re often prone to skipping the step of working hard. There is no better way to understand how to work smarter until you have done the very hard work of what it takes to get the job done. There is no better way to learn how to lead those under your leadership until you know precisely what it takes to get the job done. This will increase your understanding of what it means to be efficient in that particular role. So, if you’re a dad, help your kids clean their room from time to time. If you’re a manager, help unload the truck from time to time. Also, engaging in this hard work leads to the grit and perseverance that is needed later on in successful leadership.
Other people are great leaders too. Get used to it. Enjoy it.
Guard yourself from secretly delighting in the demise of your co-leaders or being jealous of their victory. When you decide to lead, you will find yourself in the company of talented individuals. Get used to it and enjoy their success. Do not be jealous and insecure because of this. If you’re following your biblical decision filtration system, that we spoke of earlier, you’ll be able to weed this out through careful meditation on God’s word.
Are you glorifying God by comparing yourself in this way? Are you serving them by thinking this way? A helpful note here is to meditate on Moses and Joshua’s relationship in Numbers chapter 11 where Joshua is jealous for Moses to be the only one who prophesies and Moses says, “are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them.” There is no room for jealousy in godly leadership!
Guard your friendships
As you progress in leadership, you are also progressing in age. As you age and become better at what you do, this creates a recipe for loneliness. You find yourself in a spot where because of your giftings or because of your busyness, or whatever it might be, you wake up one day to realize that you don’t have a friend that you can confide in. You can find yourself in a lonely spot quickly. Be careful to identify your role as a friend to those around you and work on being a good friend. Seeking out close friendships is part of healthy leadership.
Have a short memory
Finally, as a leader, you need to be quick to accept the blame for what has gone wrong. However, do not dwell on failures in an unhealthy way. Learn from them and wipe the slate clean. There is no better example of this than king David. Read and re-read the books of Samuel. Learn from, but do not be distracted by your failures. More importantly than that, do not be distracted by your victories and successes. Nothing detracts from progress in leadership more than reveling over one’s own brief success. A good leader has a short memory when it comes to failures but he has an even shorter memory when it comes to his victories. Properly focusing on Christ and God’s glory have the humbling effect of shaking failures and victories away so that we don’t depend on them in improper ways.
Let me leave you with a couple of questions to ponder:
What role do you play where you feel like you need the most improvement as a leader?
What is a way that you can take action as a leader today?