The Important Role Self-Awareness Plays In Leadership

What is the toughest question you’ve ever had to answer, and who asked it?

Given that somehow you made your way to this exceptional community called Orange Leaders, I automatically know a few things about you:

  • I know that you study leadership. More than likely you read leadership books, listen to leadership podcasts, and attend leadership conferences, such as Orange Conference or Rethink Leadership.
  • I know that you desire to personally grow in your ability to lead others and your organization well.
  • I know that you want to challenge and think critically about your leadership capacity.
  • I also know that you love Jesus and His Church and want more than anything to see Him glorified in and through the families under your care.

You know, I know, and as a community, we know that everything—our lives, our families, and our churches—rises and falls on healthy, faithful leadership.

You also know, however, that productivity, time-management, and leadership skills can only take you so far in life and ministry. Even with a perfectly manicured calendar, zeroed inbox, healthy work-life rhythms, and a fully set scope and sequence of curriculum for your ministry environments and leaders, you still hit the wall. Everyone does. At some point, you reach the end of your rope. You may even be contemplating a transition from ministry because you feel burned out, even with everything on the outside seemingly functional within the standards and best practices of leadership.

If I know anything about family ministry leaders, no one knows how to recruit volunteers better, how to equip leaders more effectively, how to inspire families to action more consistently, and how to create irresistible environments more tangibly.

Yet, the turnover rate among family ministry leaders continues to remain high, especially among student ministry leaders.

Why? What is it that quenches the fire in our hearts for the calling that Jesus gives to us?

I recently listened to episode 89 of The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast where Carey Nieuwhof interviewed Brian Houston, Global Senior Pastor of Hillsong Church The two of them discuss a number of points together, including what I thought was the most important and powerful: Houston’s season of burnout in 2012.

During that conversation, Houston referenced a number of familial, professional, and physiological issues that raised the one hardest question that all of us need to ask ourselves and eventually own:

Who am I? It is the question of self-awareness.

Self-awareness is the act of being conscious of your current state of mind within your abilities, relationships, and faith.

Essentially knowing your strengths and weaknesses, your relational dynamics, and where you need to grow in your relationship with Jesus.

This is the one question that neither a book nor a conference can answer for you. Conversely, you cannot answer this question in one paragraph in your journal. This is a question that requires time, prayer, and lots of honest feedback from both yourself and other trusted friends, family, and mentors.

Let’s be honest: self-awareness often gets swept under the rug for other more pressing, “acceptable” leadership issues. You need volunteers—we all need volunteers—like . . . yesterday! So your tendency leans toward reading a book or seeking guidance about best practices for volunteer recruitment. But hear me say this: Though that is important (and timely) work to do, perhaps a more probing question might be . . . what about your current season of life prevents you from exercising your greatest potential for accomplishing x, y, or z?

Perhaps the question is not about your knowledge and skill of leadership. In fact it might just be that you need to make yourself aware of your misalignment with Jesus so that other leaders respond to the attractiveness of your relationship with Christ and His leadership through you.

Self-awareness is essential in your leadership. If you feel unsettled or uncertain about your work or your calling, then seek questions about your leadership self-awareness, not how to better manage your time. Here are some questions to consider about your vocation:

  1. Am I eligible and suitable for my work? Am I on the right bus? Am I in the right seat? Am I adequately equipped to lead from this seat?
  2. What is enough for me? Am I earning enough money to make a living? Am I investing the right amount of time in my work? Am I maintaining healthy work-life rhythms?
  3. What are my non-negotiable values? Do my values align with my faith? Do my values align with the vision and values of the organization in which I work?
  4. How do others perceive me? Does my self-perception coincide with how others view me? Do others agree with my strengths and weaknesses?
  5. What is my impact on my colleagues and church community? Do I rightly perceive my influence? Do I view myself as too powerful? Do I understand the appropriate weight of my thoughts and words with others?
  6. How can I align my two voices—my head and my mouth—to communicate the same things? Am I thinking thoughts that I am not vocalizing aloud? Am I harming others in my mind and not dealing with unresolved conflict?

As you ask these questions of yourself and your colleagues, keep these tips in mind for developing a culture of self-awareness both within your life and the lives of those with whom you lead:

  • Ask good questions
  • Solicit feedback
  • Listen without justifying
  • Admit your mistakes
  • Create tangible tools for self-reflection, such as journaling, time away, and play
  • Be aware of others

C.S. Lewis once said, “The prayer that precedes all prayers is, may the real me meet the real you.” We all get stale and lost in our leadership from time to time, and when we notice those patterns beginning to rise to the surface, then our response should be first and foremost to get down on our knees, cry out to our heavenly Father, and let the real me—the self-aware me—encounter the real, true, and living God. Only this kind of confrontation with our Creator illuminated those places in our life that need healing.

Your church needs a healthy, faithful leader, and the first person in need of leadership is you. Therefore, get honest, ask the tough questions, and listen with intent, for as you grow in your self-awareness, so does your leadership.

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