If you are like every other leader I know, you have to constantly identify and manage certain areas of your life that threaten to take you down.
We all have them. Yes, even that leader who seems focused, tidy, successful and super spiritual.
These things are your nemesis: they relentlessly threaten to get you off track, throw you to the ground and kick you in the gut. They rear their head a thousand times a day depending on where you are in your journey and the intensity of the struggles you are facing. They remind you of the realities of the human condition. They hold a mirror up to your face and scream, “You can’t do this!”
I recently started thinking about some of those pesky things that are out to get us, and thought it would be helpful to flag them.
As a leader, you should resist the urge:
1. To launch into something new when you are wild-eyed
Let’s slice it straight. If you are a visionary, idea generation machine or innovator, you pretty much have “an idea a minute.” Once you get excited about that newest idea, it’s very easy to launch into it with no thought about how it impacts everyone around you or the brand future you are building. Pause and breathe. Look at all the facets of what you are considering. Challenge your own biased presuppositions and give others the freedom to do so.
2. To short circuit due process
Anything worth building requires due process. Leaders often want to rush process because they are so anxious to see progress. But there is a direct correlation between the progress you make and the process you employ. Whether you follow current best practices or create your own, you should not take the easy way out. It will hurt you in the long run.
3. To imitate what everyone else is doing
Our human nature causes us to think that imitating someone else’s success is the quickest way to our own success. In reality, it dilutes our uniqueness and sets us up for failure. Our success should organically flow out of who we are and what we care most deeply about, not what someone else cares about. As a leader, you have a choice.
4. To build it around you
Having interacted with thousands of ministry leaders throughout the years, I’ve seen my share of narcissism. It’s not pretty, but it is a legitimate problem. I’ve also been privileged to share life with many leaders who are humble and true servants. If you make your ministry all about you, not only will you fail those you are serving, but you will not be very fulfilled in your work. We are designed to make it all about others and to give freely. The fringe benefit is our own satisfaction.
5. To leave your motives unchecked
The world would be a much better place if each of us would be willing to face the hard cold facts about our motivations. Why do we want more clients, a larger church or more donations? What is driving us? Do we have an insatiable desire to be or do something that others will respect and admire? Make sure you know your motives.
6. To build on a short-term trajectory
The allure of a short-term bump in our success can wreak havoc on long-term effectiveness. Wise leaders think about the future. They envision what the organization will look like in 5, 10, 20, and even 50 years. They ask hard questions about what they are building, and why. Build with the end in mind. When you do, your chances are greatly increased that your work will be evergreen.
7. To not listen to your gut or to not follow your intuition
It can be easy as a leader to wonder if your first instinct is always the right instinct. We never want to act too quickly, and there is certainly wisdom in the multitude of counsel. But remember… you are a leader for a reason. Listening to your gut can get you into trouble, but it is often that still, small voice that leads you into the greatest successes as well. So next time you sense your intuition tugging at you, stop and listen.
8. To think: If I can just . . .
What if you had everything you needed, in this moment, to execute? What if the things you thought you must have, you really don’t need at all? Sometimes our preconditions for completing a task are simply ways to not have to face the “why” of it. Ask yourself, “Why am I undertaking this?” If the answer makes sense to you, do it. Don’t wait for the perfect moment—it may never come.
9. To overcommit
Ahhh . . . we love approval from others, don’t we? To feel like we are saving the day, fixing a problem, making it all better. But it can often come at the expense of our values, our schedules, and our sanity. Know your values, and let your calendar reflect them. Be unforgiving. Nix what isn’t working. Learn how easy it can truly be to say “no.” Then, feel the freedom that comes with receiving approval from God instead of others.
10. To build what is comfortable
As much as we like to innovate, we often find ourselves in the trap of making something that we are already familiar with. Make sure that you are constantly asking the question, “Is this scaring me to death?” If it’s not, it might be time to invent something new and redirect your efforts.
11. To use and manipulate others
If you have communication skills, it is likely you are pretty good at getting people to jump on board with your vision. But be careful that you don’t turn that ugly corner between vision casting and manipulation. It can be a fine line when we believe in something so strongly. If the vision is legit and compelling, people will follow.
12. To trash what others are building
The “competition.” When you hear that word, who comes to mind? What thoughts run wild? It can be so easy to feel the need to put down other’s efforts to build yours up. But this causes the exact opposite. Remember the saying “he who throws dirt loses ground,” and always do your best to stay on solid ground.
12. To do shoddy work
Everyone is busy. But if you are so busy that the quality of your work is suffering, then it might be time to say no to a few things. Your work is the essence of your organization, and it is why people continue to trust you. If the quality suffers, everything suffers. So do everything you can to protect it. Go to extreme lengths to make sure that quality always wins out.
14. To give up when it gets wicked hard
Any vision, dream, or project is going to have rough patches—it’s inevitable. They may be hard to anticipate when we start out on our journey, but they are there. When you reach that place, remember your “why.” Repeat it to yourself over and over. And remember the Winston Churchill saying, “If you are going through hell, keep going.”
Disagree with this list? Want to add anything to it? Share your ideas @KerryBural!