Last week I wrote about the dark side of leadership – being honest about the fact that being a leader is often not easy! I cited three specific truths about being a leader:
- It can be stressful.
- It can be lonely.
- It can be frightening.
To my own astonishment, I have been in leadership positions (primarily in a local church) for over 35 years now. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve been the object of gossip, slander and threats. There have been times when I felt beaten up and completely discouraged. Yet after 35 years I am still standing! And I still love God, still love the church and I love being a leader.
So even though there are most certainly drawbacks to being a leader – I think it is totally worth it. Whether you are a first year rookie leader or a grizzled veteran, tough times will come your way – fairly regularly. So how do you push past the dark side of being a leader in order to carry on?
In no particular order, here are six ideas that I have learned from experience:
1. Have a confidant. Sometimes you just need to vent; someone to whom you can articulate your frustrations, anger, confusion or hurt. Someone you trust implicitly to listen without judging and without blabbing! Often times it’s someone outside of your organization or church. It might be your spouse, or a best friend from your college days or a colleague in the area. But find yourself a confidant. Often just being able to articulate your pressures to someone else is extremely therapeutic.
2. Expect critics – even enemies. It always used to surprise me when I met someone who didn’t think I was wonderful! I was stupefied to discover individuals who didn’t think my every idea was golden! Fairly quickly I learned that detractors, subversives and just plain mean people are inevitable in life. The very nature of leadership inevitably means not all will agree with your every decision or be willing to follow you. Even the best leaders face fierce opposition from time to time. Even Jesus had his Judas Iscariot. So, no longer be surprised by such people.
3. Be humble and teachable. Sometimes I have deserved the criticism. Sometimes I have been flat out wrong – I deserved to be opposed! A critic can end up helping us identify our blind spots. I am fallible so I must believe I can learn something from anyone. But even if I’m 100% right and innocent – remaining humble allows me to not respond with anger and hatred. Humility is not weakness, quite the opposite – it is strength under control. This is a character quality that God can develop within you.
4. Maintain your integrity. There is a stability and an authority that comes from moral leadership. So never lie or cheat. Admit when you are wrong. Don’t be lazy. Refrain from gossiping or slandering. Put the well being of others before your own. Seek to make others successful. Do this – and your mind will be at ease when someone questions your motives or attempts to assassinate your character. And you’ll sleep better at night too!
5. Prioritize your health. Because the demands of leadership can be exhausting and taxing on both your body and soul – you must take time for yourself – otherwise your eventual “crash and burn” is as sure as tomorrow’s sunrise. So control your diet. Exercise regularly. Always take your day off. Don’t cheat your sleep time. Spend time with your family. Practice Sabbath. Look for ways to laugh and have fun. Invest heavily in your relationship with God.
6. Be sure of your calling. Are you doing what you’re supposed to be doing? Are you following the will of God in your vocation? If so, he will guide you and give you the strength for the task. Carry on. But, if you don’t have the assurance that you are in the center of God’s will then take the time to reassess what you are doing with your life. I think I’m a bit old school but I’m a huge believer in the concept of needing a call. Not like a “burning bush” type call or an “audible whisper of God” type call but rather a simple but deep conviction that you are doing what God wants you to do – where he wants you to do it. If you have that conviction you can weather just about any storm. This truth reminds us that being in the will of God doesn’t mean everything will be easy. The truth is that throughout the Scriptures and every century since, every man and woman marked for leadership has had to be tough. To face adversity with courage and determination. To be resolute in the commitment to fulfill their calling…by the strength of the One who called them.
A lot more could be written and with far greater insight. But these thoughts were simply the first that came to my mind.
Don’t lose heart leaders! Pushing past the dark side is so worth it.