Self-Leadership before Others-Leadership

by Dr John Turner
Be an example to all believers in what you say,
in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 

1 Timothy 4:12 (NLT) 
Before we can effectively lead others, we must first be willing and able to lead ourselves.  I believe it is actually the most difficult aspect of being a leader.  Anyone can bark, “do as I say, [not as I do]!” 
But that model is not biblically appropriate, not in concert with how Jesus led, nor empowering to those we are called to lead.
To lead others effectively we must lead and empower ourselves.  Let’s examine three areas of life to see if we are leading ourselves well.
Walking with God is the first step.  Leaders worth following cultivate a vibrant, growing, dynamic and interactive relationship with Christ.  Leadership skills without spiritual vitality are useless.  Christian leaders of all roles – elders, staff, deacons, volunteers of every stripe – exercise spiritual authority, which is a combination of holiness of our character, empowered giftedness, and deep experiences with God.
Effective leaders continue to grow personally.  Effective leaders know there are multiple areas in which self-leadership is expressed; consider: deepening character formation, authentic relationships, constant skill development, remaining a life-long learner, and staying ministry/harvest-focused.  The possibilities here are endless. 
Leading ourselves requires the removal of personal blockages and obstacles from life and from our roles as leaders.  Leaders who have been in leadership for a significant length of time can develop a complacency with the status quo of the church’s ministry.  This complacency, “mission-drift,” etc., simply means we lack a vision for the harvest.  Jesus was on-mission “to seek and save those who are lost.”  Lacking a sense of vision, lacking urgency for the harvest breeds fear and timidity in the leadership of the church because conflict inevitably comes when we pursue Jesus’ mission above all else.  Vision requires change, and change is often resisted – conflict.  When we lack the leadership skills to enact change, it can make us fearful and timid about addressing any change, even necessary change. 
We shouldn’t forget that poor delegation or other management skills can also impede our self-leadership.  We are not the only Kingdom leaders.  To know what we can delegate and realizing what we alone need to do releases ministry into others’ hands.  And that’s a huge part of self-leadership – knowing when to let go.  “If you want it done right, do it yourself.”  No matter how often we repeat that to each other, we need to remember in all humility that God has, in very tangible ways, given leadership of His Kingdom to us…for a time.  If He’s entrusted us to be His hands and feet in this world, we can certainly give away ministry to others. 
To lead others well, we need to lead ourselves.  “I can’t lead others where I myself haven’t yet been.”  So let’s stay close to God, first of all; constantly pursue personal growth; and tirelessly knock down our personal roadblocks and blind spots.

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