Leadership is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. It is also one of the most rewarding things you can do. Whether your leading your children, your family, your department, your company or your team, leadership can be challenging.
Leadership is hard because if you want to lead well it takes time, energy, intentionality and confidence. To lead well a person has to constantly be thinking ahead and also dealing with the present reality. The ability to influence others in a positive way starts with the way a person leads themselves.
Leading yourself is probably the most challenging part of leadership. You know yourself better than anyone and so you tend to be harder on yourself than on others. You can also talk yourself into things that are not good for you and justify bad behavior. Unless you have some accountability in your life leading yourself can be a loosing battle.
So here are some tips on how to lead yourself better, so that you can lead others better:
Leadership is hard and rewarding. It’s either increasing or decreasing and you decide which direction it’s going.
Recently I ran races on back to back weekends. First it was a race called Rough & Rugged which was a 5k cross country, trail, mud kind of race. I finished but was exhausted and struggled along the way. Then the next weekend I ran a 10k on a flat course. Again I finished but struggled and had to reach deep to keep pushing myself. After I finished that second race I made the comment that these races are much harder when you don’t train properly.
You see I had been running once a twice a week in preparation for both of these races. I also did nothing between the two races and I felt it on race day. I know this because at one time I did train hard and went into similar races in much better physical condition. I ran better times and felt better after the races. The preparation I put in made a difference on race day. I was both mentally and physically ready. That was not the case with these last two races.
It is similar in our spiritual lives, when we are staying connected to God and feeding our minds the truth, it is much easier to recognize lies and deal with the difficulties of life. It’s the things we do day in and day out that prepare us for those big moments in life and those small moments that make a big difference. Those crucial conversations, the big decisions, the temptation that comes out of no where or the unexpected tragedy. When we are not training spiritually those things can knock us down and take us out.
So here are some spiritual exercises we can all do to keep fit both spiritually and emotionally.
I encourage you to pick one or two of the areas I mentioned and start incorporating it into your everyday life. If you do all of those on a regular basis you will grow and become more fit spiritually.
What if you received a letter with a return address of Christ: The Universe? We may be afraid, concerned, excited or all of the above. In any case I am sure we would be riveted to the text of this letter. We need to be riveted to the text of the letter Christ wrote through John to the church of Laodicea in Rev. 3:14-22.
It is intensely personal and highly relevant to our search for intimacy. It could have been written to us. Near the end of the letter there is a compelling invitation:
“Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you. Conquerors will sit alongside me at the head table, just as I, having conquered, took the place of honor at the side of my father. That’s my gift to the conquerors! Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.” Revelation 3:20-22 (Msg.)
Although many times we have taken this passage as being about salvation, the context dictates that it’s actually about a relationship with Christ for those who have already come to know Him.
Christ is standing at the door of our hearts, knocking. The metaphor is powerful. It means that Christ is intentionally, aggressively, passionately pursuing us. There are no qualifiers here. He isn’t speaking to a few select people, but to all the Laodiceans: the weak and the strong, the rich and the poor, those with disabilities and those that are forgotten. Christ portrays Himself as intentionally pursuing intimacy with us.
If Christ makes Himself so accessible, why is it that we don’t open the door? There are at least three reasons for our hesitation:
The First Reason: Fear
Though God does pursue us and though Christ is there knocking, some of us may be afraid to open the door. Many of us have longed for intimacy in human relationships-with our father, mother, or someone else- only to find that our hopes for intimacy were not only dashed and broken but that as we made ourselves vulnerable, we were wounded in the process. We are afraid. We just don’t know if we can trust again.
Thomas Keating, in his book INTIMACY WITH GOD, speaks to this problem:
The Christian’s spiritual path is based on a deepening trust in God. It is trust that first allows us to take that initial leap into the dark, to encounter God at deeper levels of ourselves. And it is trust that guides the intimate refashioning of our being, the transformation of our pain, woundedness, and unconscious motivation into the person that God intended us to be.
Because trust is so important, our spiritual journey may be blocked if we carry negative attitudes toward God from early childhood. If we are afraid of God or see God as an angry father-figure, a suspicious policeman, or a harsh judge, it will be hard to develop enthusiasm, or even an interest , in the journey.
We need to pray , “Lord I want to trust You, Help me to trust you. We need to grasp the truth that God will not disappoint us. He will not abuse us. He will not use us. No one who as ever trusted God and moved toward intimacy has ever ultimately been disappointed – ever.
The Second Reason: Self-Sufficiency
Some of us have the same problem that the Laodiceans had. They were neither hot nor cold, but luke-warm. They were rich and had no material needs, so they thought they didn’t need God. They relied on what they consumed from the material world in order to satisfy, sustain, and secure themselves. Many of us don’t think it is so bad to be self-sufficient, it’s not like being self-centered or self-serving. But it is a big issue to God. Christ said to the Laodiceans that though they had all the stuff, comforts, companions, commodities, they were wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.
Wow. God wants us to be rich in the right ways. He wants to fill our lives with truly valuable treasures. He wants us to have His peace, comfort, presence, and power.
The Third Reason: Discontentment
“More. If there is a single word that summarizes American hopes and obsessions, that’s it. More success. More luxuries and gizmos. We live for more-for our next raise, our next house; and the things we already have, however wonderful they are, tend to pale in comparison with the things we might still get.” Laurence Shames
There is that ever-present craving for all that is more, bigger, or better.
He goes on to say this:
“During the past decade, many people came to believe there didn’t have to be a purpose. The mechanism didn’t require it. Consumption kept workers working, which kept the paychecks coming, which kept the people spending, which kept inventors inventing and investors investing, which meant there was more to consume. The system, properly understood, was independent of values and needed no philosophy to prop it up. It was a perfect circle, complete in itself-and empty in the middle.
The Biblical word for satisfaction is the word contentment. We are called to be content with what we have since we have God-and He is fully sufficient. That doesn’t mean we don’t ever want something or that we don’t enjoy a purchase here and there. It means that we are not controlled by the passion to consume. Having Him, we have it all. Anything extra is a bonus.
Paul tells us in Philippians 4:11-13 that he had learned both how to have plenty and how to have little and in both cases to be content. Contentment is not just a reflected in our relationship to things. We can be discontent with our spouse, our job, our place in life, our education, or a long list of other things. Sometimes discontentment can motivate us to righteousness or a zealous commitment to God. This is a healthy kind of discontentment. The kind of discontentment, however, that seeks personal satisfaction and security in “just one more thing, one more experience, one more friendship.” Leads to the emptiness and aloneness.
When we hear Him knocking, it is the trusting, God-sufficient, contented heart that hurries to answer. Opening the door generates the pleasure of experiencing His promise, “I will come right in and have supper with you.”