Pastor, what is holding your church back? Why is your church not doing all you dreamed it would do? While the possibilities are myriad, the search for solutions should start with yourself. Growing churches are led by growing leaders.
For years, I tried to be a better leader with marginal improvements. Then I read a statement that changed everything: “You must ‘be’ before you can ‘do.’ ” For me, this statement was like a combination to a locked vault. Inside was a wealth of leadership treasure. I knew instantly that I had to improve personally before I could improve professionally. Self-leadership is where leadership starts. There are no shortcuts. No one can lead beyond where he or she is.
I was reminded of this gem again recently when I read Clay Scroggins’s book, How to Lead When You Are Not in Charge. Clay quoted Tom Watson, former CEO at IBM, saying, “Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does day to day to lead himself.” Read it again. Read it one more time. Scroggins said he had thought about having this quote tattooed on his body. That might be a bit extreme, but it sure drives home the importance of self-leadership.
Listed below are seven key areas of self-leadership where I encourage all leaders to grow. I have added questions to clarify the topic and to help you hit the mark.
1. Personal Spiritual Disciplines
- Did I pray and read the Bible this morning?
- What was the last insight I discovered in God’s word?
- What was the last answer I received from prayer?
- What tangible way am I being led by God’s Spirit today?
- When was the last time I fasted a day or more?
How do I stay encouraged and what is my plan to overcome discouragement? Leadership is tough. Leaders must have a plan to win over discouragement. This plan will include a list of “go-to” Scriptures,2 and a short list of trusted friends3 with whom you will confess your struggle. Read my article, “How to Stay Encouraged in Ministry”.
- What are my “go-to” Scriptures when I am feeling down?
- Who will I call when I am unable to encourage myself?
Are you a learner? It’s a well-worn saying, “When you stop learning, you stop leading.” Are you becoming a more skillful leader, teacher, or manager by continuing to learn?
- How many books will I read this year?
- What podcasts and/or blogs am I following?
- What conference(s) am I attending annually? (If I could only attend one conference a year, I would attend Watermark’s Church Leaders Conference.)
- What is one new skill or habit I have developed this year?
- What new skill or habit must I develop next?
Leaders manage their passions and desires. No one does the Christian life perfectly, but leaders must have the habit of winning battles. Have you won the battle over anger, envy, and greed? What about winning the battle against overeating, oversleeping, overspending, or spending too much time on Facebook or surfing the web? What about winning over talking too much, stretching the truth, being too sensitive?
- What is the last spiritual battle I have won?
- What battle am I fighting now?
- What is my battle plan to consistently win over temptation?
5. Leading at Home
- How do I routinely invest spiritually in my family?
- What should I do to improve in my home leadership (what new discipline do I need to practice at home)?
God established a rhythm in life where we rest every seventh day. If a person routinely fails to rest, it could be a sign of misplaced confidence. Rest restores the soul, but it is also an act of worship—it demonstrates confidence in God.5
- Have I let the urgent crowd out my commitment to rest?
- What activity(s) restores my soul?
- What activity(s) zaps my soul?
- Do I take extended time off annually to rest?
- Do I have a plan to take a sabbatical every five years? Read my article, “Pastor Sabbatical: Why You Need It.”
- Is there anything I think I should do that I have not done because I fear I might fail?
- What one thing can I do this year to grow in confidence in Christ?
As you read over this list, you may think you are doing poorly as a leader. Remember, the goal is not to rate yourself on any of the topics above. The goal is that you will challenge yourself to grow in the areas listed above. This is not an exhaustive list. This may not even be your list.
What do you consider the most important topics when it comes to self-leadership? What challenge question(s) would you add to the topics? Share below and start a conversation.
Let us help you make a habit of self-leadership.