How you navigate those seasons in your life and work is a testament to the way you lead yourself.
Not losing can be a win
In the English Premiership (top soccer league) the best of the best know how to grind out a result, even when things are not going favorably–or at least they can figure out how not to lose, walking away with a tie. While not ideal, a tie earns 1 point versus 0 points for a loss and 3 points for a win. Last year, Liverpool came in second by the slimmest of margins to Manchester City – they had one less point over the course of the season.
As I’ve moved through these seasons (and helped others do the same), I have discovered four important aspects of self-leadership. Focusing on these during times of crisis can help recalibrate us and can help us move more purposefully through challenging circumstances.
4 signs of self-leadership
1. Remember your purpose (Why)
As a human working in the business of Christ it’s always good to check your motivation. The pressure we feel is often of our own making. Are you striving for personal success? Or are you motivated by the grace and mercy of God (Romans 12:1)?
2. Be clear on the end game (Win)
In ministry, it’s easy to get distracted by quantitative metrics. The numbers are low—you must be off track. But God’s metrics are qualitative as well as quantitative. Your purpose is to love the Lord with all that you are, to love your neighbor as yourself, and to help others do the same.
3. Embrace the responsibility of leadership (What)
Paul summarizes Christian leadership succinctly in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (NIV). A solid personal relationship with Christ is more effective than strategy, ministry flows, classes, and sermons.
4. Surround yourself with people that care for you (Who)
The lives of leaders are under a microscope. It’s a tough way to live. Trusted, honest, and loving support from mentors, friends, and family is invaluable to sustained healthy leadership.
An example of leading well
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1904-1945) was a model of someone who led well. He understood his purpose. He was clear on the win. Even under immense pressure, he embraced his leadership role. He surrounded himself with people who cared about him and with the things he cared for: establishing the Kingdom of God and the fall of the Third Reich!
Few people have had such an impact on the world as Bonhoeffer. It was his ability to stay calm and resolved in the midst of a life that was disrupted by arrest and imprisonment in concentration camps–and eventual execution–that inspired his fellow prisoners. His writings on discipleship, community, and ethics are classics. His views were tested in real-life circumstances not in an academic institution.
A radical call to discipleship
“The restoration of the church must surely depend on a new kind of monasticism, which has nothing in common with the old but a life of uncompromising discipleship, following Christ according to the Sermon on the Mount. I believe the time has come to gather people together to do this.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Are you feeling pressure to perform?
Here are three questions you can use for your reflection (or to help others) when confronted with challenging circumstances:
- What is the worst-case scenario?
- What are the most critical things you need to do in this situation for success?
- Who can you lean on during this time?
See if these questions guide you when you find yourself in need of grinding out a result.