Leadership isn't easy. Rocket science, huh? But seriously, if you're going into leadership because you want to be popular, feel good about yourself, or because you need other people's affirmation, you're going to be sorely disappointed. Leadership is hard. Selling ice cream isn't. That's what I tell younger leaders, that if they think this will be easy or fun, they need to start selling ice cream instead. Everybody loves the ice cream guy, but not everyone will always like a leader.
Why? Because leadership has to make decisions that are difficult, that carry a cost, and that deeply impact people. We want to make sure we have a zero-sum or win-win perspective, but there are times that we can't do that. Sometimes in order to do what's best for the organization/ministry/company/church, we make decisions that are painful. It's not always this way, there are lots of times when decisions are easy because there's a contagious vision and the momentum pushes things forward. Those great times are when it's fun to be a leader because you're along for the ride.
But the reality is, leaders need to have security. The security of who they are as a person with specific gifting and abilities, serving where and doing what God has called them to, and hanging on to their identity in Christ. I knew someone who served with an incredibly insecure leader, who once called him into the office because he hadn't been liking or commenting on the leader's Facebook posts, who called meetings to have people tell him he was doing a good job, and who spent time creating narratives of how people perceived him and agonizing over these delusions.
Insecure leaders are toxic to any organization, because the focus of the leadership goes from pushing things forward to stoking whatever insecurity the leader has. Meetings take on the feel of a therapy session rather than dreaming, and little risk is ever taken. The end result is an inertia, a loss of vision and enthusiasm, and in many cases the loss of solid people in the organization.
Leaders should be secure in Christ - The first place a leader needs to be secure is in their relationship with Christ. In Christ, we become new creations, we cast aside our timidity and doubt and instead have the power of the Spirit. We have crossed over from death to life, have gone from Enemies to Friends, and we know that nothing on earth or hell can ever shake us from being God's child. If that doesn't get a leader through difficult times, nothing else will. Leaders secure in Christ are not proud, nor do they carry an air of super-spirituality, but instead carry themselves with a contagious humility--an attitude of prayer, repentance, and gracious service to others.
Leaders should be secure in their Calling - As spiritual leaders, we know this is something God has called us to. Let me say that again, God has called you to serving Him. He knew your weaknesses, your shortcomings, your besetting sin, but yet He still called you. I love how Peter describes our calling, becoming a people so that we can "proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into marvelous light." Spiritual leaders aren't better Christians than others, nor are they closer to God, they simply have been given a calling that puts them in a position to influence others for effective Kingdom service and ministry.
Leaders should be secure in their Assignment - The same God who called you to spiritual leadership has also called you to the specific place and role you are serving now. So when it stinks, remember God was the one who brought you there. Insecure leaders constantly keep checking job sites or feel like they're not being used. But there's also something special knowing that God has brought you to a specific leadership position, and that He is going to use you where you are. You can't be an insecure leader and expect to be content where you're serving.
Leaders should be secure in their Team - Secure leaders know that the people around them were also brought there by God, called to some form of spiritual leadership, and above all else their brother or sister in Christ. Insecure leaders isolate themselves from their team, don't develop meaningful relationships with them, and question their role on the team. A secure leader isn't threatened by others' success, nor do they find themselves intimidated by someone on the team who shares their gift set. Secure leaders know that the others around them are there (hopefully) for the same objectives, and can be an incredible partner for accomplishing the vision.
The great thing about leadership is that it's possible for someone to go from being insecure to being secure. Work through this list, starting at the top and moving down, and ask God to help you grow and develop in those areas. Above all else, guard yourself from the discouragement and deception from the Enemy, who only seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. And that includes your security as a leader. Cling to the Savior who rescued you, who called you, and who will never, ever leave you. He is enough, and He is what we can depend on when selling ice cream sounds a whole lot better.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.