Leadership is a battle, is it not? Not so much of a physical battle, as it is an emotional . . . and spiritual one! Every day we wake up to dozens of voices going off in our head about what we can do or can’t do and should or should not do. If we listen to the wrong voices, we’re tempted to retreat or even surrender to lies of the enemy. We only lose the battle if we retreat or surrender to the enemy in the battles for our mind. What do these battles look like? In my own leadership and now in my coaching hundreds of leaders, I have observed four emotional and spiritual battles we face as the most common:
When we become insecure, we’re tempted to measure ourselves in comparison with others. We begin to try too hard. We compensate to make ourselves look better than we are. We stop trusting people. We stop listening to people. When we’re insecure in our own skin, we’re tempted to put others down to make us feel better about ourselves. We’re tempted to criticize or even condemn other leaders and ministries simply because we’re insecure in our own skin. Secure leaders, on the other hand, focus on the best in others and strive to see everyone around them become more successful. Secure leaders are teachable and coachable not defensive and isolated. Secure leaders live out of the overflow of their own confidence in Christ. I don’t have to be like you or do what you do, I simply must be the best version of me, and seek to make my world a better place through Christ. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” says a secure leader!
Social networking hasn’t helped. These days it’s always easy to get in the car Sunday afternoon feeling great about our Sunday until we open Twitter or Instagram and see someone who reaped a much larger harvest than we did. If we’re not careful, envy can creep in. There’s a reason why “Thou shalt not covet” is in the 10 commandments. Coveting what someone else has is dangerous. Covetousness and envy will eat us alive. It causes us to take our eyes off what we have and focus on what we don’t have. I tell pastors all the time: “We aren’t responsible for what we don’t have. We are responsible for 100 percent of what we have.” Don’t worry about having more or better or getting a bigger ministry. If we will focus on getting better, our ministry will get bigger.” Let’s not wish we were someone else experiencing someone else’s fruit. Instead, let’s focus on being faithful where we are with what we have. If we become faithful where we are with what we have . . . God just might trust us with more.
As the leader, we often have to see the impending issue or problem before everyone else sees it. Think about it: If others see the issues before we do, then they might need to be the leader! However, in our desire to tackle issues, make things better, and excellent (whatever that is) in all things, if we’re not careful, over time, we can become a critical leader. Over time we can begin to see everything that’s wrong rather than everything that’s right. We can begin to beat everything and everyone to death because of our critical and pessimistic attitude. The best leaders I know are positive leaders. They see the best in everyone and believe the best about everyone. They focus on what’s going right, not just on what’s wrong. They don’t shoot down new ideas so quickly. Just because a version of this idea didn’t work last time doesn’t mean we can’t experience positive results based on what we learned last time. The best leaders are positive leaders.
This may be the most common battle leaders face. Fear can be absolutely paralyzing. Fear can keep us from crossing the Jordan in our own lives. Fear can cause us to keep circling in the wilderness out of fear that we might lose what we have. Dan Allender says “Change is hard because we often overestimate the value of what we have and we underestimate what we might gain by giving that up.” Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. For the Lord, our God is with us wherever we go.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear . . . ( 2 Timothy 1:7). If fear doesn’t come from God, it can only come from one other place: our enemy. We cannot allow our enemy to win. We must step with faith out into the uncharted, uncertain waters. If we can, we just might experience the waters parting . . . and life in the land he has promised us.
How can we ultimately win these emotional and spiritual battles? God says: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power (Ephesians 6:10 NIV). Run to him. Recognize and embrace the spiritual battle. Do not retreat. Put on your armor…and go to battle!