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The Irreducible Minimum Of Leadership

The Most Important Factor...If you look at all the leadership books out there, listen to all the podcasts, and then put all the material we have gleaned about leadership into a big pile, you could divide it into three important areas:

  1. Person

  2. People

  3. Purpose

While all three of those are vital areas, without question, the PERSON is the most important. That is the irreducible factor. There can be no other leadership when a person does not begin by leading themselves well.John Eldridge says, “Most people live with the subtle dread that one day they will be discovered for who they really are and the world will be appalled.” That is a fatal crack in the substance of leadership. When one lives in a way they themselves cannot truly respect, their confidence is cockiness and a fraud, and their leadership will eventually erode.The problem is, it is easier to deal with other people than to deal with ourselves. Parker Palmer describes out problem: “That is why we externalize everything — it is far easier to deal with the exterior world. It is easier to spend your life manipulating an institution than dealing with your own soul. We make institutions sound complicated and hard and rigorous, but they are simplicity itself compared with our inner labyrinths.” So how does a person address self-leadership? Let’s look at 4 foundational principles: 1). Refuse superficiality--look beneath the surfaceThe wise man, Solomon, said, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23 Everything, good or bad, flows from the core of a person.You must develop an awareness of what you’re feeling and doing. The recent movie INSIDE OUT was supposedly a children’s movie, but it made the adults who watched it very aware of the emotions that were driving their behavior. Emotions may be grouped in families, such as :

  • Anger – fury, hostility, irritability, annoyance

  • Sadness – grief, self-pity, dejection, loneliness

  • Fear – anxiety, edginess, nervousness, fright, terror, apprehension

  • Enjoyment – joy, relief, contentment, delight, thrill, euphoria, ecstasy

  • Love – acceptance, trust, devotion, adoration

  • Surprise – shock, amazement, wonder

  • Disgust – contempt, scorn, aversion, distaste, revulsion

  • Shame – guilt, remorse, humiliation, embarrassment, chagrin

Be honest with yourself, and address your real emotions. Ask yourself these questions. And then ask them again, adding the tag, “Really?” Force yourself to admit you are angry, for instance, that your assistant is leaving without giving timely notice and going to a competitor. Admit you are scared about transitions and how they will go. Don’t just claim you are simply sad he’s leaving.What am I mad about? What am I sad about? What am I scared/fearful about? What am I glad about? Admit, identify, and apply this to every situation.Follow up and ask the “why” or “what’s going on” questions. Interpret your own thoughts and tell yourself the truth about what this really means. 2) Focus on the authentic you. You cannot lead yourself, let alone anyone else, until you actually know the truth about who you are. As you spend time honestly listening to your interior voice and commit to trusted companions of integrity, you can learn to differentiate your true self from the demands and voices around you. Differentiation is the ability and willingness to define your own goals and values separately from the pressures and opinions of those around you.Differentiation is courageously and humbly living faithfully to yourself. You are connected to people, appreciative of people, without having your reactions, self-worth, moods, or behavior determined by them.This is one of the most courageous, difficult, and affirming steps you will ever take. It is absolutely critical to leading. 3) Learn from the past without giving it the power. Leaders all have a past. Somehow we think that titles, education, positions, even religious experience can invalidate the past. While each of those attempts can play a part in making a life exponentially more fulfilling and leadership more effective, the past is never erased. What happened then certainly effects today.The past can propel us forward or hold us back. We can’t default to it, but we need to recognize it, learn its lessons, and then use them for today.It is good to break your past down into eras and write your story. Who were you, and what was going on from birth through grade school? How did your family life and initial social excursions go? Do you need re-parented in some areas? The more we know about our families, the more we know about ourselves – and more freedom we have to make decisions how we want to live. What happened in your school years? How has that impacted you, and what is your worldview? College or young adulthood? Marriage and family? Right up to today, look at your life, the people in it. What have you learned, and who can help you correct some of the misinformation, unlearned skills, and inadequacies? How can you use what you learned well to help you lead today? 4) Lastly, you have to develop a system of self-care. How will you care for your physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual needs? You have to have a plan that you actually schedule in each of these areas, or you will destroy your health in one way or another. And, you will find yourself no longer leading. A leader goes first, and when a leader is not growing, learning, becoming his or her best self, they quit leading.

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